Nima Wangdi 

Cement agents in Thimphu have run out of cement.

Kezang, 65, who is constructing a house in Changzamtok, said his house is stuck at the plastering stage because of a lack of cement in the market.

“I have tried all of the agents and even called Penden Cement Authority Limited (PCAL) and Dungsam Cement Corporation Limited (DCCL), but could not find any,” he said. “There has been no cement since January and agents kept saying it would be available within three days or a week, but it never came.”

Kezang said his labourers are doing other work that doesn’t require cement.

He said he is trying to complete the house soon, but cement has become the problem. “The longer I take to complete the house, the more I will lose financially.”

He said there is cement in the factories, but transporting it to Thimphu has become a problem due to the lockdown in Phuentsholing and Samtse, and the Covid-19 outbreak in Nganglam.

Another Thimphu resident, who is constructing a house, said a few agents have some cement, but the price has shot up. “We used to buy cement at Nu 350 to 400 in the past, but it now costs Nu 450 to 500.”

A petty contractor looking after a building construction said he has some cement in stock but it might run out in a few days.

An engineer looking after the construction of an office said he had to run around looking for cement and he managed to avail only 10 bags. “If the problem continues, it will have chain of effects.”

He said they will have to keep paying labourers and also feed them without work. “People can work under containment mode even during lockdown if there are raw materials.”

A cement agent, Namgay, said he doesn’t have cement in stock and he receives around 300 calls in a day. “I contacted PCAL and DCCL but haven’t been able to get consignments.”

Three of his trucks are stranded in DCCL because the drivers had to go into quarantine. “There was a positive case on February 13 in the containment where my drivers lived.”

He said some people feel agents are not selling cement despite having it in stock. “That is not true.”

Namgay said he could not get cement from PCAL because of the lockdown in Phuentsholing and there was a positive case in Nganglam. “I hope the problem gets resolved soon. Our business is in trouble.”

DCCL’s interim chief executive officer, Tshering Tenzin, said the shortage of cement in the market is because of transportation problems.

“Our plant is undergoing major maintenance work but we have enough stock to cover the period until the maintenance is complete,” he said. “Plant maintenance also got delayed due to the crucial expatriate testing positive for the virus in the quarantine.”

He said the maintenance is expected to be finished in 10 days. “But if the maintenance prolongs, we might have to adjust and reduce export.”

PCAL Chief Executive Officer Tenzin said the plant is currently under maintenance and it’s expected to finish by February 22. “We have not been able to supply cement since there are no escort services due to lockdown.”

Meanwhile, the Pemagatshel dzongkhag incident commander issued a notification saying that the supply of cement to the low-risk areas, which was suspended following the case that was detected on February 13, will be resumed immediately.