ROCK HARD Cement Ltd has failed in its judicial review claim against Government’s decision to impose a quota and a 50 per cent increase in the import duties of cement.
Justice Jacqueline Wilson dismissed the legal claim on Tuesday evening that was brought by St Lucia-based Rock Hard Distribution Ltd (RHDL) and Rock Hard Distributors of Trinidad and Tobago (RHTT), challenging the decision that was announced in November 2020 by the Ministry of Trade and Industry.
Rock Hard’s argument was that the move would impact negatively on their businesses and cripple their operations.
The ministry had intended to introduce the quota from January 1 this year to allow the importation of only 75,000 tonnes of cement a year for all distributors for the next three years.
The distributors were also challenging the ministry’s proposal sent to Caricom’s Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED) for the further suspension of the Common External Tariff (CET) on other hydraulic cements and to apply the 50 per cent rate of duty.
Rock Hard Cement is manufactured in Turkey and is consigned to distributors regionally. It began distribution in this country in 2016.
While the judge dismissed the claim, the Express has been informed she will not be delivering her written ruling until sometime next week.
In its defence, attorneys for the ministry argued that the quota system was being introduced to reduce the leakage of foreign exchange, strengthen the local cement manufacturing industry, maintain employment and build on exports.
The Rock Hard companies also have a similar challenge before the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) against the State.
In those proceedings, the companies are seeking to have the court review the decision of COTED to grant T&T’s request to suspend the CET of five per cent on imports of other hydraulic cements and impose the 50 per cent rate in import duties.
Both the CCJ and the High Court heard that the company wanted to move from 35 per cent CET in January of 2020 to zero in 2021.
This was described by attorneys for the State as an extreme position from a governmental point of view and that all the Government wanted to do was raise revenue in the time of a pandemic.
Rock Hard Cement, adjusted the price of cement delivered to hardware stores on July 1, by adding a delivery surcharge to the price before July 1.
In a newspaper advertisement early last month, Rock Hard signalled its intention to increase the price of its cement on the local market from July 1, 2021, “due to rising prices worldwide along with the volatility of shipping during the second half of the year.”
In its notice to the public, Rock Hard Cement said: “We have seen the impact of the global pandemic on the prices of products and the economic challenges faced in many countries after being closed for several months.”
The cement importer said that for the last year and a half, Barbados-based, St Lucia-registered Rock Hard Distribution had successfully deployed several strategic measures to avoid increasing the price of its cement.
“Unfortunately, we cannot sustain these prices any further with costs continuing to go up,” said Rock Hard Cement, adding that it was “confident that the market prices will stabilise in 2022.”