ROCK Hard Cement is seeking an interim injunction preventing the Government from imposing a quota and a 50 per cent increase in the import duties on cement.
The application for that order will come up for hearing today during a virtual hearing before Justice Jacqueline Wilson at the High Court.
Rock Hard Distributors of Trinidad and Tobago and Rock Hard Distribution of St Lucia are challenging a decision announced in December by the Ministry of Trade and Industry to introduce the quota from January 1 to allow only 75,000 tonnes importation for all distributors for the next three years.
The distributors are also challenging the ministry’s proposal sent to the Commission for Trade and Economic Development (COTED) for further suspension of the Common External Tariff (CET) on other hydraulic cements and to apply the 50 per cent rate of duty.
The quota, import licensing regime as well as a registration system for grey and other hydraulic cement came into effect on January 1.
Rock Hard cement is manufactured in Turkey and is consigned to distributors regionally. It began distributing in this country in 2016.
In its claim, Barbados-based Mark Maloney, executive chairman of Rock Hard Distribution Ltd (RHDL), registered in St Lucia, stated the Trinidad and Tobago limb of Rock Hard’s business was of particular importance since almost half of the total amount of cement it purchases is imported into this country.
In his affidavit, Maloney said this gives Rock Hard leverage to negotiate better pricing from its suppliers in Turkey. Maloney went on to say that, without Trinidad and Tobago, the brand would not be able to achieve competitive pricing on the supply of cement or shipping and would not be able to operate in the region.
He stated that for business in this country to remain viable, a minimum of 300,000 tonnes of cement per annum would have to be imported into the region.
For this country alone, Rock Hard distributed approximately 150,000 tonnes from 2016 to 2020, he said.
“RHDL and RHTT are therefore substantial contributors to the economy of Trinidad and Tobago both by way of direct investment, earning foreign exchange, employment, and the development of the cement and construction and related industries,” the application maintains.
It adds that not only would the cement quota destroy both businesses, but both decisions will cause the price of cement and the cost of construction to rise locally.