By Kurt Campbell
The Guyana Government is maintaining that there is a shortage in domestically produced stones even as one local company continues to refute such claims by the administration.
Public Works Minister Robeson Benn told reporters at a press conference today September 13 that, “everyone knows that for the past two years there has been a stone shortage and it continues to exist.”
However, earlier this week local producer, BK International dismissed such claims by the Government stating it has more than an adequate supply of granite stone and that there was no need to import stones.
Minister Benn told reporters however, that two simple indicators that there is in fact a shortage locally is the already high and increasing price for the commodity and the fact that there is a need to import the commodity from quarries in the region, including St. Lucia and St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
The Public Works Minister attributed the shortfall to the boom in the local construction sector and the resulting increased demand for the commodity.
He said he would have been more comforted if BK International and some sections of the media had reported that the company now has enough stones in stock that can possibly bring an end to the shortage experienced.
Benn believes the BK Quarries only now has enough stone to supply the national need after its supply to the construction of the Marriott Hotel slowed up.
The Minister said Government remains unhappy at the high and increasing price for the commodity and the issue has been under discussion at cabinet.
Managing Director of BK International Brian Tiwari had said that President Donald Ramotar, who announced that that was a stone shortage, was ill informed and accused sections of the Government of targeting its operations.
To this end, Minister Benn lashed out at Tiwari for making such statements stating that the President made his pronouncement based on a report that was done by the Public Works Ministry in May of this year and shows that the supply of stone was 40% below demand.
According to information obtained from Guyana Geology and Mines Commission for 2012, the total declaration of quarry products from the five licensed quart operations in Guyana amounted to 483,859 tons.
Public Works stated that of the declared amounts, 277,103 tons originated from BK Quarries Inc.
The Minister while waving a picture added that a fly over the quarries in Guyana by officials at his ministry two days ago shows that there are hardly any stockpiles of stones there.
BK International on the other hand claims it produces approximately 30 tons of stones monthly and currently has 10,000 tons of stone in stock.
Benn believes this shortfall have also affected the quality of stones produced locally while pointed to examples of rejected piles of stones for its intended purpose by his ministry.
He says claims by BK International that the Government has been delinquent in its payment to the company which is also involved in the construction of roads and bridges are “silly, irresponsible and reckless.”
Benn concluded that the Government of Guyana will continue to work to ensure a competitive and sustainable source of supply of quality stones locally for national projects, businesses and homebuilders.
Currently, a ton of imported stone is sold for $8,000 to $9,000 dollars while locally produced stone is retailed for $8,000 to $8,500 dollars.
BK International Inc is taking the media on a tour of its operations tomorrow, Saturday September 14.