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Cement prices continue to rise…

There has been only modest success in controlling the rise in prices. Despite claims of big success in controlling inflation, there are run away increases in several items of common consumption. A paradox here relates to the creation of high capacity but low capacity utilisation and soaring prices. Cement and steel offer the most glaring examples. Cement manufacturers complain of working to just around 60 per cent of capacity. One doesn’t notice much of an increase in the cost of inputs like limestone.  

Yet look at the price distortion: a bag of cement in Chennai is sold at  Rs. 420 while it is sold around Rs. 300 in Delhi. The price has doubled in less than five years. There is already a case pending before the Competitive Commission of India which has charged several cement manufacturers of cartelisation. Likewise steel producers continue to increase prices by claiming better quality of structural steel; they seem to graduate year after year- from Fe430 to Fe500 and now Fe550 grades of steel. Manufacturers claim that the increased strength that should logically result in reduced consumption per unit of construction thus helping in price stability. But contractors do not agree. The result is unrelenting increase in cost of construction material that has resulted in unaffordable levels of housing prices. Property prices in prime locations in the city like K K Nagar have shot up from a level of Rs. 800 to 1000 a sq ft in 2001 to Rs. 11,000 to 12,000 per sq ft today. This in turn has led to huge unsold properties.

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