TOKYO (Nikkei)–Japan is witnessing an increasingly robust demand for a wide range of building materials as reconstruction projects get on track in areas hit by the Great East Japan Earthquake.
Demand for asphalt has grown sharply in the Tohoku region as more major roads are repaired. Nationwide demand is projected to rise 11.5% on the year to 255,000 tons in March, according to the Infrastructure and Transport Ministry.
In the Sendai region of Miyagi Prefecture, asphalt currently sells for around 89,000 yen a ton, about 5,000 yen to 7,000 yen higher than in Tokyo. The price differential has widened from the usual 2,000 yen to 3,000 yen gap because the material has to be shipped from elsewhere, as oil refineries in the northeastern region of Tohoku have not fully resumed operations.
Cement demand is also growing strongly. Shipments in Tohoku have increased on the year for five straight months since last August, according to the Japan Cement Association.
Soil stabilizers, which are made from cement and chemicals, are also in demand. Taiheiyo Cement Corp. (5233) and Sumitomo Osaka Cement Co. (5232) see a 20-30% surge in shipments to Tohoku from a year earlier. Many industry officials anticipate higher prices ahead, partly because of higher cement prices.
Domestic shipments of steel sheet pile, used to prevent landslides, jumped 54% on the year to 62,000 tons in December.
On the other hand, shipments of plywood and other housing materials have not taken off, partly due to delays in drawing up plans on how disaster-stricken land will be used. A shortage of construction workers is another reason. But demand for these materials is expected to expand substantially once basic construction is under way.
(The Nikkei Feb. 17 morning edition)