Spain's cement consumption sinks during coronavirus crisis

MADRID, May 20 (Reuters) - Spain’s cement consumption has plummeted since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, and was down by 50% year-on-year in April, the Spanish cement industry association said on Wednesday. The data covered the first full month since Spain went into lockdown in mid-March to curb the spread of the coronavirus, imposing severe restrictions on the key construction sector and other economic areas.

Excluding the recession years after the 2008-09 global financial crisis, it was the lowest monthly cement consumption rate since 1964.

Building materials lobby group Oficemen said consumption was already down 22% this year, with 1 million tonnes less cement consumed in the first four months of 2020 than in the corresponding period last year.

“The 50% fall is due to the complete paralysis of the construction sector ... to impede the pandemic’s expansion,” said Oficemen president Victor Garcia. “If the economy does not reactivate immediately, we could face a cement consumption situation in our country worse than the worst year of our last crisis.”

The International Monetary Fund has predicted that Spain’s economy will contract by 8% in 2020, and Spain’s central bank has forecast a recession of up to 12.4%

Spain could lose up to 240,000 small- to medium-sized companies because of the economic damage wrought by the pandemic, the General Council of Administrative Agents warned last week, potentially leaving up 1.5 million workers jobless.

Spain has endured one of Europe’s worst coronavirus outbreaks, causing 232,037 confirmed cases and 27,778 deaths so far, as well as mass unemployment and a GDP contraction of 5.2% in the first quarter. (Reporting and writing by Clara-Laeila Laudette; additional reporting by Jesus Aguado; editing by Timothy Heritage)