In an exclusive interview with CemWeek Magazine, Paul Rodzianko addresses a major issue in the Georgian cement industry: poor-quality cement. In a comprehensive discussion, Rodzianko explains the background for the creation of the Georgian Cement Association, the impact of a possible dumping situation, and what the Georgian cement industry can do to become more competitive and sustainable.
This interview originally appeared in CemWeek 48. Click here or on the image to read the full interview
The Georgian Cement Association (GCA) is a very recent one, having been formed in 2017. What factors played into the creation of the Association?
For several years, the Georgian Building Group (GBG), a wholly-owned subsidiary of our Kavkaz Cement holding company, conducted market surveys the way any responsible company should, to evaluate and see for ourselves the quality of competing bagged cement products available on the Georgian market.
We visited different markets, purchased sample bags from different producers, and then tested these products in our accredited laboratory. We were shocked by the results. Some bags advertised a strength of, say, 32.5 mpa but, in actuality, the range of tested strengths was huge: about one-quarter of the samples tested to the advertised specification but three-quarters failed by as much as 90% – a shocking disparity. Clearly, the purchasers of these products were being cheated as to the quality of the product they thought they were buying.
The other major conclusion was that certain producers, by selling an inferior product disguised as a quality product, were competing unfairly with the producers who were producing quality cements. Clinker is the most expensive raw material for making cement. If you don’t put clinker into cement according to standard industry formulas, let’s say 70% to 80%, and you instead put in 20% to 30%, you will produce a product that costs a lot less to make and yet visually looks the same as quality cement. As a result, the cheaters, even while discounting their prices somewhat, make a lot more money – at the expense of their customers and at the expense of the quality producers’ market share.
One of the ironies of this situation is that a number of these small producers are fully capable of manufacturing good-quality wholesale cement because builders they sell to test every shipment to ensure quality for their construction. Retail customers who buy bags do not test the product they buy. As a result, by putting bad cement into bags that cannot be traced to them, the cheaters realize a much higher profitability – at their customers’ expense – as well as engage in unfair competition with the quality producers.
Once all this became clear to us, we compared notes with HeidelbergCement. They too had been performing similar market tests and had encountered the same situation. We both agreed that a sustainable Georgian cement industry could not tolerate such cheating. As a result, we decided to form the GCA in order to bring the issue of cement quality into the public’s view by educating the consumer and the government as to what was really going on. To do so in in the most proper way, we decided to enlist the support of the Georgian Chamber of Commerce to purchase the samples anonymously in the open market four times a year and to organize a blind testing with the Georgian Technical University. Membership is open to any Georgian producer whose products meet international quality specifications. Our initial press conference took place in January 2017. It was well attended by both government and industry as have subsequent ones. Our next one should take place in February 2019. While the number of conforming products has increased somewhat over the last couple of years, there is much that needs to be done and we welcome the Government’s responsiveness and initiatives in this direction.
What role can the Association play in stimulating and promoting the Georgian cement industry?
The Georgian cement industry does not operate in a vacuum. Turkey has a very large cement production capability. Azerbaijan has a pretty substantial one, while Armenia is quite modest. Iran not only has one of the largest production capacities in the world, about 90 million tons, but also possibly the largest currently unutilized capability – about 50 million tons.
In Georgia, three major companies – ourselves, i.e. Kavkaz Cement; HeidelbergCement; and more recently Lafarge – produce most of the cement in Georgia and about 25 small producers the rest. HeidelbergCement is the only producer of clinker in Georgia and, until late last year, had been operating a mixture of wet lines and dry lines but, with the completion of their large dry line project in Kaspi, they have shut down the wet lines which could, however, be reopened if market demand justifies such a move.
With all lines running, Heidelberg’s clinker production capacity could potentially supply the entire Georgian cement market even if today’s market demand increases substantially due to all of the expected infrastructure projects. The same is true with respect to milling capacity if you include the capacity of all the small mills in the country as well. There’s enough milling capacity to meet all current and potentially all future cement requirements of Georgia (...)
Read the full interview in CemWeek 48