Mozambique: Lack of Power Paralyses Coca-Cola Factory

Maputo — Despite the proud boasts of Coca-Cola Mozambique that there will be no shortage of soft drinks during the 2011 festive season, one of the Coca-Cola bottling plants is almost at a standstill due to problems with the power supply.

According to the Coca-Cola public relations director, Francisco Tembe, speaking in Maputo on Friday, the company's factory in the central city of Chimoio has received no power from the national grid since Thursday night. The factory is currently using a small generator, which cannot provide enough power for the entire production line.

"We don't have power in our Chimoio factory, which means we shall produce less than the 22,000 crates of soft drinks a day, which is our capacity", said Tembe.

He took the opportunity of a Maputo press conference on supplies for the festive season to urge the government to intervene and ensure that there are no more power cuts.

"We want support from the government so that cases of this sort are solved at once", said Tembe. Power cuts ruined all attempts to increase production "and we are forced to do our planning all over again".

The largest Coca-Cola plant, in Maputo, faces the same problem of power cuts and oscillations in the power supply.

"The same thing happens in Maputo", said Tembe. "The machines are new and sensitive, and when there is a power cut, even if it's only for a couple of minutes, it takes time to start the machinery up again. This stoppage means the loss of considerable amounts of our products".

A source in the publicly-owned electricity company, EDM, told AIM that the Thursday power cut in Chimoio was due to a storm in Manica province,

Heavy rain and strong winds had damaged the electricity transmission lines. The power supply for Chimoio has now been re-established, but the EDM source warned that the stormy weather means there could be more power cuts.

Representatives of other businesses attending the press conference also complained that power cuts are hitting their production. Paulo Goncalves, of the food distributor Africom, said that the supply of good quality electricity is crucial for ensuring a return on the investments made.

"When there's a power cut, we suffer losses because our frozen chickens thaw out and rot", he said. "The machines have to stop, and it takes time to restart the production lines. Without electricity we are going nowhere, and all the investments we make are in vain".

Rogerio Cuinica, representative of the Mopane group, which makes the "Fizz" brand of soft drink, said that the Mopane factory in Machava, in the southern city of Matola, has also suffered from frequent power cuts.

"We've had power problems and they've been increasing recently", said Cuinica. "In the last two weeks we've suffered a lot. There have been constant power cuts and this damages our production".

But the EDM source told AIM there have not been any "constant" power cuts, or power oscillations in the Maputo and Matola electricity distribution systems. What might be happening, he suggested, was internal power oscillations within the factories, "which is normal".

He added that EDM is ready to respond to any power supply problems that might arise during the festive season. "We have work teams organised to respond to any emergency, and the team phone numbers are published in the main newspapers".

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