S. Korea to boost cement production amid supply woes

SEOUL-- South Korean cement companies decided Wednesday to increase their production by 35 percent on-quarter for the next three months to ease concerns over a supply shortage amid the crisis surrounding Ukraine, the industry ministry said.

The country is running out of cement reserves due mainly to the companies' growing investment in eco-friendly facilities and the unexpected growth in demand by builders, while global supply chains of bituminous coal used to make cement have been unstable due to the crisis surrounding Ukraine.

During a meeting with government officials on Wednesday, seven major cement companies agreed to produce a combined 3.77 million tons of cement in the second quarter, up 35.7 percent from the January-March period, according to the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy.

The government also plans to provide around 380,000 tons of cement to the domestic market, though they are supposed to be sold overseas, it added.

The companies have also sought to diversify their import channels of bituminous coal. Russian coal accounted for about 54 percent of South Korea's coal imports in the first quarter, down from last year's 75 percent, as companies increased the imports from Australia from last year's 25 percent to 46 percent.

In a longer-term plan, the companies plan to reduce their dependence on soft coal to produce cement by using more eco-friendly materials.

The government vowed to earmark 930.6 billion won (US$763.54 million) by 2030 starting next year to support such moves.

"We will closely monitor the supply situation and boost consultations with related industries to ensure stable supplies of cement and other key materials," a ministry official said.

Source: Yonhap News Agency