Vietnam will export 1.5 million tonnes of cement this year, an increase of 500,000 tonnes over last year, according to the the Vietnam Cement Association.

Twelve new cement plants would become operational this year, with a capacity to supply 10.18 million tonnes annually, said the head of the association's secretariat, Nguyen Van Diep. This would increase the total capacity of the domestic industry to 60 million tonnes, Diep said.

Since domestic demand has been forecast to rise 10 percent over last year to about 55-56 million tonnes, most of the additional capacity would be exported, he said.

In an attempt to find new export markets, the Ministry of Construction has urged cement manufacturers to look for potential markets in Bangladesh , the Middle East and Africa .

It has also worked with the association to help cement producers nationwide apply more advanced technology to reduce input costs.

Cement prices have remained stable since the end of last year, at 900,000 VND-1 million VND (46-51 USD) per tonne in the north, and 1.2-1.3 million VND (61.5-66.5 USD) in the south, Diep said. However, prices could be affected by rising electricity and coal prices, he cautioned.

There are currently 90 firms nationwide producing or trading cement. Of these, 33 are subsidiaries of the State-owned Vietnam Cement Industry Corporation, five are foreign-invested joint ventures and 50 are smaller producers./.