Saudi considering lifting export curbs on cement, steel -report

DUBAI, Nov 29 (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia is considering lifting partial export bans on cement and steel to relieve oversupply in the local market, economic news website al-Eqtisadiah quoted a customs department official as saying on Sunday.

Saudi government bodies are studying whether to ease restrictions on cement and steel exports after local production doubled, exceeding the storage capacity of the kingdom’s largest companies, customs department spokesman Essa al-Essa told Eqtisadiah without giving any timeframe for the decision.

Steel stocks have risen above 1.8 million tonnes, causing some factories to cut production by 50 percent and shut some smelters entirely, said the report, citing the chairman of the National Committee for the Steel Industry.

The Saudi government originally imposed a ban on cement exports in 2008 to push prices down and accommodate demand from large government-funded infrastructure projects, although some companies were allowed to export at prices lower than those in the local market. Steel exports have been similarly restricted.

New activity in the Saudi construction sector has slowed in recent months as a slump in oil prices has pushed the government to cut spending on non-essential projects; the industry may slow further if, as economists expect, more austerity measures are imposed next year. (Reporting by Katie Paul and Marwa Rashad; Editing by Andrew Torchia)