COVID-19: Voices from the Cement Industry - Interview with Cui Xingtai

As part of our programme of connecting our global members during the COVID-19 outbreak, WCA is hosting video interviews with our members to discuss the situations in their countries and to find out more about the impacts of the pandemic on the cement industry around the world. Here is an interview, with Mr Cui Xingtai, Chairman of CUCC, China and WCA Joint Chairman.

Video Transcript:

[How has the outbreak of COVID-19 affected the cement industry and the demand for cement in China?]

At present, China's cement industry, both market situation and cement production, has basically returned to normal. China's overall demand in 2020 will be basically the same as that in 2019. COVID-19 has little impact on the overall demand for cement in 2020.

China's cement demand peaked in 2014 and has since plateaued at 2 to 2.5 billion tons. It was expected that consumption will slow down after 2020. However, due to the impact of the epidemic on the global economy, the Chinese government has taken a series of measures, such as increasing investment in infrastructure. As a result, the plateau will be extended for about 3 years.

Due to the epidemic, Chinese government stimulated the economy and increased investment in infrastructure. In the next three years or so, it will play a role in driving the market.

[What measures has CUCC put into place to protect their employees?]

From the perspective of China's cement industry, CNBM and CUCC included, employees are requested to pay attention to their own safety at home on one hand. At the same time, they are also advised to ensure the health of their family members. If their family members have symptoms, then their health cannot be guaranteed. On the other hand, some enterprises continued production during the outbreak. Effective protection included taking employee’s temperature when leaving their home and boarding the company bus as well as monitoring temperature upon their arrival at factories.

In addition, all buses are disinfected. During work, they wear masks all the time and keep a 1-metre distance with their peers. The office space is fully disinfected as well. The staff are not allowed into canteens but take meals at their work posts. In general, protection measures for employees are firmly in place.

[Based on the early experience in China, what advice do you have for cement companies around the world on how to respond to the COVID crisis?]

I think the epidemic breakout at this time has exerted a great impact on the global economy and people's lives. As to the question how the cement industry will operate in the current situation, I'd like to share some suggestions with you.

First, in face of the epidemic, the life and health of employees should be prioritised. No matter whether the employees work at office or at home, enterprises should always pay attention to their health and safety. Chinese enterprises not only provide masks to employees, but also alcohol gels and disinfectants to preserve the health of their employees.

During working hours, stringent prevention measures are taken to maintain the employees’ safety. Only by ensuring the health of employees can the factories resume production as soon as possible once the epidemic ends.

Secondly, during the outbreak, the cement industry and cement enterprises should fulfil their social responsibilities. For example, in China, hospitals needed to be set up temporarily in many places. At this tough time, the staff of many companies remain at home. However, some cement enterprises including CUCC have fought to meet the ready-mix concrete demand to guarantee the construction of medical facilities in a very short time.

At the same time, cement enterprises require their employees to strictly follow the arrangements of the communities and the government, and safeguard their personal health.

In addition, donations are made to the severely affected areas. CUCC has donated around 10 million yuan. Many enterprises in China like Huaxin Cement use their cement kilns to co-process COVID-19 medical wastes free of charge, with no strings attached and leaving no stones unturned.

These acts reflect cement enterprises’ sense of responsibility and their performance of social responsibilities, leaving a good impression on the industry and society.

Thirdly, the epidemic in the short term will have a certain impact on the demand for cement. In this case, we should not panic but need to maintain the healthy development of the market.

[What steps has WCA taken to support their members during the pandemic?]

WCA is the first association working on a global basis to represent the cement industry. I believe WCA shall call on all members to care about each other in the fight against COVID-19. I personally think WCA has done a very good job!

WCA has mobilised enterprises to donate masks and other supplies, organised a liveblog and video exchanges, and held a series of online webinars. This is very well done!

I want to tell you that WCA Beijing Representative Office still has masks donated by CUCC. If any enterprises from any country or region in need of masks, they can contact the Beijing office (details on the WCA website).