VILNIUS - Prime Minister Algirdas Brazauskas has said that the government should consider ways to assist Akmenes Cementas (Akmene Cement), Lithuania's only cement manufacturer, to expand its production facilities.
"I think that we and the Economy Ministry should help, as much as the European Union allow us to, to launch another technological line with a capacity of 600,000 tons of cement, and that would solve this issue completely," he told lawmakers on Sept. 29.
Brazauskas said that increased capacities at the Akmene plant would help overcome a shortage of cement in the country.
Retail prices of cement have soared in recent weeks as demand outstripped supply on the back of EU-imposed import restriction on Belarusian cement, which contains a harmful substance.
The retail price of a 40-kilogram bag of cement rose to 15 litas (4.3 euros) from 9 - 10 litas. The retail price of Polish cement has increased to approximately 16 litas, according to a report last month.
Speaking last week, Economy Minister Kestutis Dauksys said that there was no shortage of cement per se, but supplies of cheap cement have not been sufficient to meet local demand.
He also said there was shortage of Belarusian cement since producers there have received better offers from Russia.
Arturas Zaremba, CEO of Akmenes Cementas, was quoted last month as saying, "Former importers of cement from Belarus are probably the ones to blame for this turmoil. As the shortage of cement has emerged, they have approached our company. However, we have contracts for all our output."
He noted that the company had boosted its output, but this was still not enough to eliminate the deficit. There have also been seasonal factors, such as summer, that facilitated the spike in prices.
The EU directive that prohibited the use of cement with certain quantities of harmful chromium came into effect in January.
Akmenes Cementas posted sales of 76.3 million litas (22.16 million euros) for the first eight months of this year, a rise of 8.9 percent year-on-year.
Cemex, the Mexican cement giant, controls a 33.95 percent stake through a subsidiary, while four Lithuanian individuals hold a combined 51 percent stake.
The cement plant is located in Naujoji Akmene, in northwestern Lithuania.