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It’s make or break for SA’s coatings sector, says SAPMA

Home Engineering Associations It's make or break for SA's coatings sector, says SAPMA

THE South African coatings sector urgently needs government assistance to counter growing challenges that could jeopardise its entire future, says Sanjeev Bhatt, who was recently re-elected as Chairperson of the SA Paint Manufacturing Association (SAPMA).

Bhatt says in addition to disruptions in electricity supply, crumbling infrastructure and inefficient management of SOEs, the coatings sector faces competition from other African countries.

“The employment rates that some African governments, such as Egypt, grant their manufacturing sectors make production costs there much lower than here. If these cheaper imports from Africa are allowed to flood the market, the local coatings manufacturing sector will suffer serious economic consequences and ultimately cease production,” says Bhatt.

SAPMA is hoping that relief will come from the Department of Trade Industry and Competition (DTIC), which has confirmed that an African Free Trade Agreement has been ring-fenced for South Africa. This will mean that coatings and associated raw material imports from countries like Egypt will not be allowed into South Africa duty free.

Cheap imports

“Due to the cost of electricity and lack of constant supply, as well as the cost of labour, we believe government must assist the coatings sector with rebates for electricity, and any other possible rebates to assist our sector. If not, many SAPMA members will consider moving to other countries to set up plants where labour costs are lower and electricity supply is more assured.”

According to Bhatt, government and its departments need to work more closely with the coatings sector to ensure that current policies, or policies in the pipeline, are reconsidered or revised to help the sector streamline operational processes.

“Take permits required at ports of entry, for instance.  These are now required in writing for every single individual consignment brought into the country. As some coatings companies have consignments of the same chemicals and raw materials coming into port four or five times a year, importers must laboriously repeat the same paper-based permit applications. We would like government departments to streamline import permits and place the process on online.

“Government departments should consult with the coatings sector to better understand our manufacturing process as well as our supplier needs.  SAPMA is hoping to meet with key government departments such as DTIC, the International Trade Administration Commission, and Invest SA (part of DTIC), as soon as possible to seek help in this regard,” he says.

Shortage of skills

Bhatt says there is a worrying skills shortage in the coatings sector, especially at industrial chemist level.

“SAPMA has never stopped training – we are just not doing it anymore through our SA Paint Industry Training Institute (SAPITI), which we have shut down.

“Instead we work closely with the British Coatings Federation (BCF), which has recently updated its training modules to make them more user-friendly and also cover more fields such as powder coatings, inks and printing, in addition to only general coatings tuition.

“Through SAPMA these courses are available online, which make them accessible to students all over the country.  The other benefit of using the BCF training material is that completed modules are recognised both locally and internationally through the BCF.”

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