The cement factory in the southern Mozambican city of Matola is to halt production of clinker for the next 45 days, in order to install filters and replace equipment in a bid to reduce pollution.
The factory is notorious for its pollution, and environmentalists have been campaigning against it for years.
Frequently the factory belches out clouds that are visible for kilometres around, and carpets everything in the vicinity on a fine white dust.
This was certainly not what the Mozambican government hoped for when the company Cimentos de Mocambique, with its three factories (in Matola, Dondo and Nacala), was privatised in the mid-1990s, effectively becoming a subsidiary of the Portuguese cement giant CIMPOR.
A source at the factory, cited in Monday’s issue of the Maputo daily "Noticias", claims that the temporary halt to clinker production will not affect the supply of cement to the market, because sufficient stocks exist for the next six weeks.
Nonetheless, some retailers in Maputo have been hiking the price of cement since the start of the month. A bag of cement that used to cost 190 meticais (about US$7.6) in the city’s informal markets now sells for 225 meticais.
The cement is cheaper in formal shops, where the price of a bag has risen from 180 to 210 meticais.
The retailers claim the increase is justified by the delays of the cement factory in meeting orders.
Ashraf Latif, the manager of building materials distributor, Construa, claimed that his trucks now have to queue up outside the factory for two or three days waiting for cement, which adds considerably to the company’s costs.
Cimentos de Mocambique, however, can see no good reason for such increases, and describes them as pure speculation. "There was no price increase resulting from the work we are doing, and so this is pure opportunism on the part of cement retailers’, said Cimentos de Mocambique manager Hernes Silva.
He said that his company has been supplying 32,000 bags of cement a day, and there is no reason for price increases.