Viet Nam Association for Building Materials chairman Tran Van Huynh spoke with Hai Quan (Customs) newspaper about the building materials industry
How do you evaluate the past year in terms of production and consumption of building materials?
Since the nation has tightened monetary policies under Government Resolution 11, work at many on-going construction sites has been delayed or come to a complete standstill. Due to the tight connection between the building sector and the materials used, this has greatly lowered consumption.
Many cement factories are losing money because business has slumped. Some have even been forced to close down.
The consumption of cement was forecast to reach about 55 million tonnes last year, but in fact only 49 million tonnes was used. However, manufacturers managed to export more than 5 millions of tonnes, achieving the targeted goal and a stable price.
So, do you think that export of building materials are a sustainable solution for Viet Nam's construction industry in the present circumstances?
We plan to export more building materials, such as ceramic and granite bricks, ceramic sanitation and paving stones. The price of export granite and marble is US$50-100 a square metre or about $1,500-2,000 a tonne. A tonne of cement fetches only $40-50.
This year's economy is not forecast to improve much. What impact does it have on building material exports?
The economic difficulties will continue to affect the construction sector and the consumption of building materials. The sector plans to maintain domestic consumption of cement at about 55 millions tonnes, and export 5 million tonnes.
Export of marble and other paving stones will be promoted due to high world demand and favourable prices. Recently, the price of exported paving stones was $100 a square metre.
More importantly, this year I believe we should reduce imports, especially of ceramic products. Currently, ceramic products made in China are popular in Viet Nam. But this trade should be minimised to promote locally made products.
We have also discussed how to improve the quality of products without increasing their price. It's not easy when the price of coal and electricity keeps going up. And Chinese products are much better than previously. Thus, we must make better products to compete.
One of difficulties of the national economy is getting investment capital. What is the situation in the building materials industry?
We believe the situation will be improved if we reduce interest rates, curb inflation and increase capitals for construction works. This will also help attract foreign investment.
Logically, the economy could develop after the financial crisis. We should be well-prepared for this. For example, the construction of many cement factories has been postponed due to low demand and lack of capital.
However, we should keep these factories open as it takes about three years to set up new ones. With building, it is always better to be one step ahead. — VNS