July 20, 2020 / 4:46 PM / 23 days ago

Spain's cement industry asks for government help as sales plummet

MADRID (Reuters) - Cement sales in Spain fell by 16.5% in the first half of this year, cement industry association Oficemen said on Monday, a slump that shows how hard the construction industry and the broader economy have been hit by the coronavirus crisis.

The Bank of Spain has forecast that the euro zone’s fourth largest economy would contract by 9%-11% in 2020.

The cement data, which indicates the impact on the real estate and infrastructure sectors that account for 14% of Spain’s economy, showed the industry needed help, Oficemen’s director general Aniceto Zaragoza told Reuters.

“We have urgent needs in every field of infrastructure, and some, like the need to overhaul our water sanitation system, are especially significant,” Zaragoza said, adding that the country also needed more hospitals and public housing.

“The government must invest in vital social infrastructures like transport and housing, with the help of EU funding and public-private collaboration,” he said.

Sales in June picked up slightly compared to May but Garcia Brosa attributed that to two extra working days in the month rather than the start of a real recovery.

Spain was one of the European countries hardest-hit by the coronavirus crisis, with a strict, three-month lockdown. Cases are on the rise again in parts of Catalonia where authorities have in recent days told people to stay at home.

Reporting by Clara-Laeila Laudette; Editing by Ingrid Melander and Edmund Blair

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