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Spanish cement sales slump to 50-year low with no pick-up in 2021

·2-min read

MADRID, Jan 27 (Reuters) - Cement sales in Spain fell to their lowest level in more than 50 years in 2020 as the coronavirus pandemic paralysed almost all construction work for several months, the national industry association said on Wednesday.

Sales slipped by 1.4 million tonnes from 2019 to 13.3 million tonnes last year, with the bulk of the fall in March and April, when Spain had a national lockdown and halted all non-essential industry, Oficemen president Victor Garcia Brosa said.

"Spain hasn't seen such low cement sales since 1967," Brosa told reporters, adding that levels are expected to remain flat through 2021. "We won't see the European fund's positive impact until 2022."

Brosa noted that there had been larger drops in cement sales in the 2013-2018 period after a deep economic crisis in Spain triggered when a real estate and construction bubble burst.

The average annual sales of cement in Spain over the last 50 years have been 25 million tonnes.

"The level of public-works tendering is insufficient to stimulate the sector... we need to inspire trust in private players so they take on new projects as well," Brosa said, urging the sector to consolidate further to gain efficiency.

Civil-works tenders plummeted 26.7% in 2020, with sales to transportation projects almost halving. Overall, residential and non-residential construction sales fell more than 22%.

Meanwhile, exports edged down 3.4% from 2019 as Spain lost its ranking as the European Union's top cement exporter, with Germany now leading the pack.

In light of the EU's recently-raised goals for reducing carbon emissions, Brosa called for a system of carbon adjustment at the borders to even out the conditions of competition.

"Raised climate ambitions will have a devastating effect on the construction sector if we don't establish balancing measures," he added. (Reporting by Clara-Laeila Laudette; Editing by Nathan Allen and Alexander Smith)