The government upped the ante against cement companies by threatening to ban exports to help dampen the post-Budget price rise. Commerce and Industry Minister Kamal Nath said, “If cement makers could not absorb the additional duties on dearer cement announced in the Budget, the government would look into the issue in a “holistic manner” and take action to counter their hike in prices. India exports about 10 million tonne of cement a year of the total production capacity of 150 million tonne. Gujarat Ambuja, Sanghi and Ultratech are among those that export cement mainly to Gulf countries from the west coast. A ban on exports may, hence, mitigate prices in the western region. The cement industry and the government are engaged in a bitter battle after finance minister P. Chidambaram proposed to increase the specific excise duty per metric tonne of cement to Rs. 600 for companies selling 50 kg bags at Rs. 190 or more in his Budget. The companies hiked prices by Rs. 12-15 a bag, frustrating the government’s efforts to rein in cement prices in particular, and inflation in general. At a meeting with government officials, the cement industry promised to invest Rs. 40,000 crores and increase production by 100 million tonne over the next five years. Kamal Nath’s statement dragged cement stocks down by up to 9% on the BSE. Grasim fell 1% to Rs. 2,104.40. Gujarat Ambuja plunged 8.5% to Rs. 104.15. ACC lost 4.7% to close at Rs. 813.95.