Spanish cement consumption falls below level last seen in 1964

Spain’s cement consumption fell by half in April, to 600,000 tonnes compared with around 1.2 million tonnes in the same period last year, according to Spanish cement industry association, Oficemen.

It prompted the body to call for "the immediate reactivation" of Spain’s economy.

Covering the first full month since Spain went into lockdown in mid-March, the data confirms Oficemen’s own worst predictions.

Oficemen’s president, Víctor García Brosa, said the fall was unprecedented; a comparable monthly level was last seen in March 1964, when the country was emerging from a deep recession in the Franco era.

Then, consumption stood at 780,000 tonnes, 182,000 tons more than last month’s result.

He said: "The 50% drop is associated with the complete cessation of the construction sector, decreed by the government from 30 March 30 to 9 April. This leads us to think that, on the rest of the business days in April, the drop in consumption is around 30%. If the economy is not reactivated immediately, we may find ourselves facing a situation in the consumption of cement in our country, worse than the worst year of the previous crisis."

Oficemen is recommending that the government respond to the collapse by allowing "the immediate reactivation" of Spain’s economy "before it is too late".

García Brosa said the construction sector, which creates a high level of indirect employment, should be used as a lever to restart the remainder of the economy.

"It is time," he said, "to activate the building linked to the 2030 agenda, and to the European ‘Green Pact’, as well as the relaunch of demand in the residential sector for new construction, for example, through a public social housing plan for rentals long-term."

The export market for Spanish cement has also suffered from the coronavirus crisis, with a 64% fall in April, representing a loss of 416,000 tonnes.

The International Monetary Fund has predicted that Spain’s economy will contract by 8% in 2020, and Spain’s central bank has forecast a slump of up to 12.4%

Reuters reports that Spain could lose up to 240,000 small businesses because of the economic damage wrought by the pandemic, potentially leaving up 1.5 million workers jobless.

So far, there have been 232,037 confirmed cases in Spain and 27,778 deaths, according to the WHO’s count. The economy is thought to have suffered a 5.2% fall in GDP over the first quarter.

Image: A silent Spanish cement plant (Oficemen)

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