Ethiopia: Authority Closes Two Cement Factories

messebo_cement_factory

Allafrica : Addis ababa

Huwaei Plc and Debresina Business Industries were banned from manufacturing cement on Friday, January 21, 2011, after the Ethiopian Quality and Standards Authority (EQSA) found their products to be below standard.

Both factories are to return the quality authentication seal given to them by the authority.

This comes as a result of a surprise inspection the authority made on nine cement factories, in November 2010, according to Gashaw Tesfaye, acting director general of the Ethiopian Conformity Assessment Organisation (ECAO).

messebo_cement_factory
Messebo cement factory

“We had received many complaints from customers over a two-week period, prompting the surprise inspection,” he told Fortune.

Samples that were taken from the premises of the factories were tested in the EQSA’s laboratories and the analysis completed last Monday.

The samples were tested for meeting the authority’s mechanical, physical, chemical, and durability requirements, according to Gashaw.

Debresina, which started operations in Holeta Town early last year, and Huwaei Plc, which started production near Adama Town, in November 2010, failed to meet these requirements. As a result, they were banned from producing or selling cement and ordered to recall the cement they have already sold.

The factories will remain closed until they start producing according to the required standards, the EQSA said in a press release.

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Although the authority issued certificates to some of those who complained that the cement they had brought to be tested was below standard, the EQSA could not take measures against the retailers, but only the factories if they found the cement on their production lines to be of poor quality.

“We can only take measures against those we find producing cement that is below standard,” Gashaw told Fortune.

This was the case with Teshale Girma, who had complained to the authority.

The 2,000ql of cement he claimed to have bought from Zongshen Cement Factory had turned red and started cracking. He received a certificate from the EQSA that the cement was below standard.

However, when the authority’s inspection team went to the factory to take samples, they were denied access for three hours, according to Gashaw.

While the sample taken after that showed the cement to meet the requirements, the factory could have changed the composition of the cement on the production line during that time, Gashaw believes. “We cannot take measures based on the code of conduct,” he told Fortune. “We can only go on the results of the tests we run.”

Yet, the complainants said they were ready to take their grievances to the next level, i.e. legal measures, according to Teshale.

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An example during the announcement of the ban on the two companies was a pedestrian bridge in Gambella, constructed by Helbesa, the Swiss Association for International Cooperation.

A total of 340ql of cement from Abyssinia Cement Factory and Debresina were used in constructing the bridge, which collapsed two weeks ago, five days after being completed, according to Alem Shumiye, project coordinator.

Cement production in the country is handled by eight companies, which have been producing a combined 2.6 million tonnes annually since May 2009, according research conducted by Access Capital Services. The country’s consumption of cement increased by an average of close to 30pc over the four years preceding 2009, according to the research.

State owned Mugher Cement; Messebo, owned by the Endowment Fund for the Rehabilitation of Tigray (EFFORT); and National Cement, a private company; are the top three producers with a combined total capacity of two million tonnes.

At the beginning of this month, the government started delivering 250,000ql of cement, out of the 1.5 million quintals it had ordered from Pakistan, to different construction sites nationwide from Djibouti Port. The second shipment of cement started arriving last week.

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