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Tue April 13 2021

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Rise in quarry product sales throws doubt on government's numbers

1 May 15 According to Office for National Statistics, construction is in decline but sales of construction's most basic ingredients are rising.

Latest quarterly survey of members of the Mineral Products Association (MPA) shows first quarter 2015 sales volumes increasing across the board. MPA’s data brings into question the accuracy of official government numbers that put construction output in decline. According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), construction output shrank by 0.8% in Q1 2015. MPA's figures provide an indication that the ONS might have got it wrong.

Seasonally adjusted results, providing a consistent quarter by quarter comparison, indicated that crushed rock and sand and gravel sales volumes rose by 2.2% and 3.6% respectively compared to Q4 2014. Ready-mixed concrete and asphalt sales were 1.3% and 1.2% up.

Latest data for cement shows that annual sales grew by 7.8% in 2014. After an intervention by what is now the Competition & Markets Authority, cement sales figures are now collected only on an annual basis, not quarterly. [See previous report here.]

However, the latest quarterly volumes for asphalt, aggregates and concrete remain respectively 15%, 25% and 30% below the pre-recession peak.

MPA chief executive Nigel Jackson said: “Demand for our sector’s materials, which are critical to construction, has continued to grow in Q1 suggesting that construction activity remains buoyant. We believe that recent preliminary ONS construction data may be underestimating actual levels of activity and await later revisions to confirm the true picture. However, the official data do highlight that construction activity is essential to a continuing economic recovery and a new government must ensure that uncertainty is minimised to boost confidence to encourage sustained public and private investment in construction following the election.”

MPA sales volumes in Great Britain

% Change on previous period (seasonally adjusted)

Asphalt

Ready-mixed concrete*

Crushed Rock

Sand & Gravel

Cement

  2013

3.9%

11.5%

7.5%

7.8%

9.7%

  2014

8.6%

3.1%

13.5%

7.2%

7.8%

  2014 Q1

-2.6%

-4.1%

3.8%

-2.1%

-

  2014 Q2

3.4%

2.7%

2.8%

-4.4%

-

  2014 Q3

3.1%

3.5%

2.7%

7.7%

-

  2014 Q4

5.2%

0.0%

3.1%

1.5%

-

  2015 Q1

1.2%

1.3%

2.2%

3.6%

-

*RMC is the sum of sales from both fixed & site plants.

*Cement refers to all cementitious materials. Data available on a yearly basis only.

The figures give sales trends by volume of material sold for a consistent sample of Mineral Products Association members comprising the following approximate proportions of total GB markets.

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MPU
MPU

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