The Cement Industry in Latin America

By Mauro Nogarin

New cement plant of Yucatan, built to carry out the work of the Mayan railway.

The cement industry in the main Latin American countries has stabilized, reaching in most cases the production levels of 2019. However, in Brazil and Mexico the unfavorable economic situation has led to an increase in the prices of construction has materials to such an extent that it has slowed down domestic demand. 

Unlike the situation in Peru, which after a political crisis ended with President Pedro Castillo being ousted in December 2022, the cement industry has also suffered a sharp reduction in productive activities.

According to a new report from the Association of Portland Cement Manufacturers, cement shipments closed 2022 with 13,000,000 tons, 7% more than the previous year. In December 2022, cement shipments increased 9.4% with 937,000 tons, of which 933,000 tons were destined for the domestic market and 4,000 for export. The evolution of dispatches coincides with the reactivation of the economic activity of public works financed by the government.

Cement production reached record levels, exceeding those in 2019, in the 10 months of 2022 (January-October). Cement production in the country grew by 12% and sales by 5.6% through October 2022 compared to 2021. According to data from the National Institute of Statistics, as of October, cement production had reached 3.3 million tons, from 2.9 million tons registered the previous year. Regarding sales in the first 10 months of 2022, 3.1 million metric tons were reached, compared to 2.9 million in the same period of 2021.

According to the National Union of the Cement Industry, cement sales in December amounted to 4.5 million tons, registering a 6.3% drop compared to the same month in 2021. With this result, the sector closed 2022 with a total of 63.1 million tons of cement sold, 2.8% less than the previous year. This negative result comes after the good performance in 2021, which, even with the Covid-19 pandemic, registered growth of 6.8%.

According to data from the country’s National Administrative Department of Statistics, during the period of January-December 2022, cement production reached 14,600,000 tons, presenting an increase of 5.9% compared to the same period of the previous year. Shipments to the national market accumulated 13,500,000 tons, resulting in a positive variation of 3.6% compared to the period of January-December 2021. However, in December 2022 compared to the same month in 2021, the total result of gray cement shipments was mainly explained by the decrease in the construction sector (-11.1%), which subtracted 1.7 percentage points from the total variation of cement production (-1.1%).

Inflation in cement and concrete registered a growth of 14.9% in December 2022 compared to the same period in 2021. According to data from the National Institute of Statistics and Geography, the accumulated national cement production from January-November went from 47,200,000 tons in 2021 to 45,600,000 tons in 2022, registering a reduction of 3.39%. According to a new technical report from the Mexican Chamber of the Construction Industry, the main causes that generated this reduction in cement production was the 10% increase in the prices of materials, in addition to inflation in the construction industry. The same report also indicates that since 2017, the price of cement did not register increases as important as those reported at the start of 2022, since in the last five years it has never exceeded double-digit increases.

According to data from the Association of Cement Producers (ASOCEM), in December 2022 production growth fell by 3% compared to December 2021. In addition, at the national level in December 2022, dispatch fell 6% compared to December 2021. While in the period of January-December 2022, cement production and national dispatch reached a growth of 3% with 13.5 million tons compared to the period of the previous year.

Mauro Nogarin is Cement Products’ Latin American correspondent.

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