Price increases for cement, shipping draw ISME anger


THE Minister for Enterprise and Employment Mr Bruton has been asked to investigate recent price increases in the cement and shipping industries.

The call was made last night by the Irish Small and Medium Enterprises Association (ISME) in a statement which questioned recent price increases in certain sectors dominated by a few large firms.

Within a matter of weeks (and days in some cases), the main concrete manufacturers have circulated their customers looking for price increases of between 2.5 per cent to 3.5 per cent.

ISME, which provided copies of the letters to newspapers and the Minister, said four concrete manufacturing companies had sent letters to customers seeking similar price increases for roughly the same range of products.

"These companies are the dominant players in the construction industry," said ISME, adding that the similarity of dates in the price increase demanded is striking. "It should be noted that the price of concrete has been consistently higher in the Republic than in the rest of the EU" it said

Two concrete manufacturers cited increased environmental costs associated with their products. One also cited increases in labour costs, fuel, haulage and raw materials. One of the letters seen by The Irish Times was sent on December 18th, while another letter sent by another company was dated December 19th.

ISME said a similar trend of price increases was emerging in the case of shipping. The major shipping lines were demanding price increases averaging between 6 per cent and 7 per cent on Continental routes. Three of the shipping companies cited increased fuel costs for raising their rates from this month. The three letters sent to customers were written on December 4th, 5th and 9th respectively.

"No account is taken of the appreciation of the punt against other EU currencies particularly against sterling, the deutschmark and the french franc," ISME said.

A spokesman for Mr Bruton? said last night that the complaints when received, would be examined and referred to the Competition Authority if necessary.