Cement consumption in Spain closed 2019 at 14,254,420 tons, 5.9% more than in 2018, which represents a growth close to 800,000 tons, according to the latest data published in the Cement Statistics. Despite closing the year in positive, cement consumption has halved its growth rate in the second half, largely due to the slowdown in the real estate market.

After an upward trend during the first six months of the year, when it grew at a rate close to 11% and in which consumption gained 804,000 tons, the second half has been characterized by a stagnation of the figures, even with a slight accumulated fall from July to December of 0.2%, compared to the same period of 2018.

Since Oficemen, it is estimated that this situation of slowdown will continue in 2020, year that is expected to close with a growth in cement consumption in the environment of 2%.

The data for December, the month in which cement consumption has fallen above 10% compared to December 2018, has weighed the accumulated growth at the end of the previous month by almost one percentage point. December becomes, therefore, in the fourth month that it has closed in negative in 2019, with a total of 886,133 tons, which implies a fall of more than 100,000 tons compared to the month of December of the previous year, the most abrupt fall that It has occurred in the year.

Slowdown of cement and housing consumption

With the public work practically paralyzed in our country, the main engine of cement consumption in recent years has been the building. However, the latest known data from the housing sector seem to be parallel to cement consumption and also point to a slowdown in this subsector. The home purchase and sale operations until November also indicate that 2019 will close with the first decline since 2013.

“It is worth noting that the 110,000 new homes that have started in 2019 represent half of the homes that were built in the pre-boom periods. We have to remember that, for a country like Spain, the real estate market should have, on average, between 180,000 and 200,000 new homes per year; so it still leaves us a long journey of recovery, ”explains the president of Oficemen, Víctor García Brosa.

With regard to the absence of execution of public works, the cement company recalls that public investment in infrastructure in relation to GDP is around 1%, the lowest level since 1983. “It is urgent that the new government take measures in this regard, our country needs infrastructure related to transport and mobility, access to cities, the improvement of secondary networks; Essential infrastructures related to the treatment of waste or sanitation and water purification, a circumstance of the latter, whose breach has already resulted in fines by the EU ”, García Brosa warns, adding that“ after the declaration of State of Climate and Environmental Emergency, it is also recognized the need to invest in a safer and less vulnerable country against the impacts and risks of climate change. In this sense, concrete will have an essential role for the construction of safer and more resilient buildings and infrastructure. "

Exports already accumulate more than two and a half years in red numbers

Exports in December exceeded the level of two and a half years of uninterrupted falls, with a decrease of 33% and the loss of almost 200,000 tons. In the whole of 2019, they have stood at 6,232,043 tons, with a decrease of 23%, which means a loss of close to two million tons in foreign markets, “the equivalent to the average annual production of 3- 4 cement factories, ”explains the president of Oficemen.

Imports, on the other hand, have doubled, from 465,390 tons in 2018 to almost one million in 2019. As for cement production data, they increase 2.6% in 2019, staying below 17 million tons per year since 2014, “which means less than half of the installed capacity in our factories,” adds García Brosa. “We have gone from being the 5th largest cement producer in the world in 2007 to occupy the 29th position, behind countries such as Morocco, Poland, the Philippines or Nigeria. In addition, countries "already built" as our neighbors France, Italy or Germany, maintain production levels well above those of Spain, "he says.

The energy and emissions cost, key in the loss of competitiveness

Behind the poor results of the commercial balance of cement, so far the main lifeline of the sector during the crisis, are the energy cost overruns suffered by the manufacture of cement in Spain compared to other competing countries. On average, the electricity rate of a factory in our country is 27% more expensive than that of one in Germany and 21% more than one in France. In this sense, from Oficemen they urge the new Government to unlock the commissioning of the promised Statute of the electro-intensive industry.

The situation has also been aggravated by the evolution of the price of CO2 emission rights, which in the last three years has skyrocketed, going from € 5.83 / t on average in 2017 to € 24.84 / t in 2019, which undermines the competitiveness of European industry against third countries with little commitment in the fight against climate change.

The European Green Pact highlights the fundamental role that electrointensive industries such as cement play in the economy; emphasizing that the decarbonization and modernization of these sectors will be key.

“The companies that make up Oficemen have a strong commitment to reducing emissions, translated into investments for years, as it was in the meeting held at COP25. However, this commitment is not shared by many of our competitors in the Mediterranean area, where they do not have a decarbonation agenda such as that of the European Union, and in which CO2 emissions are not taxed, ”concludes García Brosa.

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