Glass Industry

Zimbabwe: Zimglass Loses $2bn Daily

Prospects of glass shortage in the country easing in the near future have been scuttled by power cuts, which have adversely affected operations at the country's sole glass manufacturer Zimglass, which is said to be losing $2 billion a day in foregone production as a result.

Zimglass group chief executive Mr Jacob Dube yesterday said efforts to alleviate the shortage since July had been futile largely because of the power outages. This was despite a standing agreement between Zimglass and the Zimbabwe Elec-tricity Distribution Company whereby the glass manufacturer paid part of its electricity bill in foreign currency in exchange for uninterrupted electricity supplies during the firing and post-firing period of its blast furnaces.

"The company is capable of producing and selling 2 250 tonnes of glass per month, which means that from 22 July to 20 September we should have produced and sold 4 800 tonnes of glass packaging but have managed to produce and sell only 1 500 tonnes," said Mr Dube.

"It must be remembered that once our furnaces are fired they cannot be stopped until after the next rebuild. "This means that during load-shedding although commercial production cannot be carried out the furnace must be kept hot and raw materials consumed using standby generators.

"The molten glass will not be fit for glass making and is therefore thrown away notwithstanding the related costs. "Due to the nature of our furnace technology we stand to lose this furnace if load-shedding continues at this scale with severe consequences, for example job losses, foreign currency earnings.

"The country will need to spend upwards of US$25 million on the importation of glass packaging and/or substitutes." Other company activities affected by the power outages, Mr Dube said, included mining, processing and marketing of silica sands and other raw materials considered indispensable in glass manufacture.

Worse still, both domestic and external customers had lost confidence in Zimglass, which, Mr Dube said, would have "far-reaching consequences for the company especially in the export market". Going forward, Mr Dube said that the medium to long-term solution was to ensure that sanity prevailed at both Hwange Colliery and Hwange Power Station. It was also incumbent upon business people to work towards the survival of their companies. ZEDC acting general manager for the Southern Region, Mr Lloyd Jaji, confirmed Zimglass was paying for its supplies in foreign currency. But he was quick to add that this was no guarantee against load-shedding as it was not viable to import electricity for just a handful of companies.

"Zimglass is under a scheme where we approach companies to contribute foreign currency which we then use to procure extra supplies so we can offer them uninterrupted supplies. "For the scheme to work we need a minimum of 400MW and at the moment we have managed to attract a number of companies. But we are still falling short of the 400MW requirement and we are still persuading other companies to join in so that we can meet the target and be able to import the electricity," he said.

The power company has been plagued by a host of challenges which have resulted in it failing to meet demand. These include outdated infrastructure and lack of foreign currency to procure spares and new equipment. Furthermore, it has had to contend with theft of cables and transformer oil.

Source: All Africa