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The South African coatings industry is desperately waiting for a government rebate on the import duties for titanium dioxide which is costing its members millions of rands to import despite the fact that there is no local source of this vital raw material for the production of paints, varnishes and driers.


Tara Benn, executive director of the SA Paint Manufacturing Association (SAPMA), says there has been no local production of titanium dioxide since 2016 and therefore no SA industry to protect by the imposition of import duties. “Yet, despite pleas to the government, no rebate on the heavy import duties has yet been implemented. Most of the titanium dioxide has had to be sourced from China.


“Now, six years later, the International Trade Commission Administration (ITAC) - only on June 22 this year - published an amendment gazette stating that an import duty rebate was planned for a period of two years. The rebate would only apply for two years as, according to ITAC, local production of titanium dioxide would then have started at a new multi-billion rand Nyanza Light Metals plant being constructed at Richards Bay. But we still have no idea when the rebates will be introduced – nor an official date for the start of local production to fully meet our industry’s needs,” Benn stated.


She said SAPMA members’ profitability had been severely affected by the heavy import duties, coupled with Covid-19 challenges. “It has undoubtedly also hit all consumers of coatings which are suffering because of supply delays and unavoidable pricing strategies required to cope with the cost of importing titanium dioxide,” she added.


Tonderai Chibasa, Tariff and Trade Remedies Manager at global trade advisors, Xaqta, which is trying to expedite the implementation of the rebates on behalf of SAPMA, said: “We have engaged with ITAC on a number of occasions and the only response we get is that the investigation is at an advanced stage. We suspect the delay is being caused by the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Competition which has to make the final decision following ITAC’s recommendation. It is worth noting that the delays are not unique to the titanium dioxide investigation. We are seeing delays across all ITAC open investigations regarding customs duties,” Chibasa said.


He added that, in addition to being widely used in the coatings industry, titanium dioxide is also an important raw material for many other industries such as manufacturers of adhesives, paper, plastics and rubber, printing inks, coated fabrics and textiles, ceramics, floor coverings, roofing materials, cosmetics, toothpaste, soap, water treatment agents, pharmaceuticals, food colourants, automotive products, sunscreen and catalysts, to name just a few.


The Deputy Minister of Trade, Industry and Competition (DTIC), Nomalungelo Gina, recently said the government was happy with the progress made at the new titanium dioxide pigment plant based in the Richards Bay Industrial Development Zone (RBIDZ). Gina visited Nyanza Lights Metals to evaluate the phase one completion of the infrastructure being built by the company for its chemicals plant.


16 Aug 2022

Supplied by SA Paint Manufacturing Association

Increasing reports of deaths from drinking home-brewed alcohol spiked with methanol have again shown how urgently the government should implement legislation against the use of methanol in paint thinners, says Tara Benn, executive director of the SA Paint Manufacturing Association (SAPMA).

Benn says SAPMA has for many years tried to have the retail sales of methanol and its use in paint thinners banned.

“The government should take note of the devastating loss of life experienced throughout the world by methanol – and it is undoubtedly also happening here. Although still unconfirmed, methanol has recently been identified as a possible cause of the deaths of 21 teenagers at a bar in East London. Methanol was found in all their bodies.

“Many people probably also died locally from such lethal liquor during the lockdown when alcohol sales were banned. We know several people died after a Cape Town house party. It’s rampant all over the world. In July this year, dozens died after the consumption of methanol-spiked liquor in Gujarat’s Botad district in Pakistan. India has had a thriving moonshine industry, and methanol-tainted liquor has killed thousands of people there in the last four decades. In Europe, methanol-laced alcohol has been killing hundreds annually in countries such as the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Estonia and Poland. Costa Rica and Ecuador, also, have a thriving tainted alcohol industry,” Benn adds.

Because methanol deaths are often misdiagnosed as acute alcoholism, SAPMA believes home brews laced with lethal methanol are still being widely produced countrywide by locals who cannot afford to buy liquor.

“The fact that bottles of methanol, in the form of lacquer paint thinners, are widely available from retail outlets, should be of deep concern to the government. Because methanol is less expensive and more readily available than ethanol, fraudsters use it instead of ethanol in homemade alcohol. SAPMA is also concerned that children could accidentally drink a garage-stored DIY product such as lacquer thinners, sometimes containing up to 32% methanol.”

Benn says the Department of Health years ago already announced that methanol had undergone the necessary Socio-economic Impact Assessment (SEIAS) study and legislation for its banning was with the Department of Monitoring and Evaluation for approval. “This gave SAPMA hope that methanol would soon be eradicated from South African retail shelves – but we are still awaiting any meaningful action. At this year’s SAPMA AGM, it was confirmed and ratified that SAPMA and its members fully support the regulation of methanol and will be part of the task team in assisting in regulating the use of methanol within the coatings sector.”

SAPMA prohibits the unmarked use of methanol in its Code of Ethics and labelling, clearly warning that a product contains methanol, which is compulsory for SAPMA members.