By NEIL HARTNELL
and YOURI KEMP
Tribune Business Reporters
Cement shortages have hit the Bahamian construction industry at least three times in the past month, it was revealed yesterday, with suppliers yesterday suggesting the backlog will cause a 20 percent cost hike for the sector.
Stephen Wrinkle, the former Bahamian Contractors Association (BCA) president, told Tribune Business that the Lyford Commerce Centre, a retail business park he is constructing on Western Road, had been hit by delays and schedule disruptions several times due to the problem.
“This has happened three times’ in the past month,” he revealed. “It will have a significant impact if we cannot pour concrete or manufacture blocks. It really impedes construction here. Most of our work is done with concrete and concrete blocks. We’ve had to wait on concrete pours, and it’s disrupted our schedule. We have to wait on the boat to come in.
“I know that once it starts impeding our schedule there are cost implications. Many times we’re able to do some other work, but it doesn’t alter the fact a main component is not available. It will have ramifications, but I haven’t totted it up. Once you pour the concrete you have to wait for it to cure, and then move on. It affects the next element of the job. It’s a chain reaction.
“We use a tremendous amount of cement, concrete and concrete blocks. It’s an astronomical amount because of the way we build. We’ve seen three delays on our project so far, some of them significant and others not so significant. The concrete companies, cement block manufacturers have different schedules and once they get behind it’s very difficult to catch up,” Mr Wrinkle added.
“They were running way over time on the weekend last time it happened trying to catch up, and it costs them more money. The supply chain, once it’s broken, has a chain reaction on costs and productivity. Everybody is trying to build things and get moving. The construction industry is quite busy at the moment. But the problems are out of our reach, out of our control for us and the local suppliers.”
Mexico and Haiti are the two main sources of cement for The Bahamas. Leonard Sands, the current BCA president, said he had been made aware of the supply shortfall on Wednesday but predicted that the impact is “not going to be prolonged”. He suggested the issue will be resolved within the next seven to 14 days.
However, one building materials supplier yesterday said the regional cement shortage that will cause a 20 percent rise in construction prices.
Timothy Clarke, president of Bahamas Construction Company, told Tribune Business: “There is a cement shortage in the region because of the global supply chain, and cost of shipping into this area has gone up. Because of the supply chain disruption, the price of cement has gone up dramatically.
“Because of the shortage, the price has been increased. So right now if you go into some of the hardware stores you would find cement at $22 a bag, but when there is no shortage or disruption it can go anywhere from $14 to $17 depending on what’s available.”
This is the second time in less than 12` months that The Bahamas has faced a cement shortage due to supply chain challenges. Mr Clarke added: “I don’t foresee the supply chain challenges easing up in the next few months. But what’s happening is you’re going to have the bigger ready mix companies buying such large volumes and the price of construction overall is going to increase. Maybe you are going to see a 20 percent increase on the price of construction. That is what will happen.”
To curb this spike, Mr Clarke suggested that the Government should “step in” and ensure = the construction industry is well served and “establish relationships with overseas neighbours like Cuba, who is a major supplier of cement”.