January 5, 2008

Outcome of cotton harvest / Labour Ministry suspends Fertiliser Company

Mozambican cotton producers earned 386.9 million meticais (about 16.1 million US dollars at current exchange rates) from the sale of first grade raw cotton in the 2007 harvest, the government's Mozambique Cotton Institute (IAM) has reported. First grade cotton accounts for 80 per cent of the crop sold in Mozambique. The minimum price was 5.3 meticais (22 US cents) a kilo, but most of the purchasing companies paid more than the minimum. Some of the peasant producers, organised into associations, were able to obtain premiums of between seven and 13 per cent in negotiations with the companies. The IAM puts the probable earnings from exporting 27,000 tonnes of cotton fibre at 27 million dollars (assuming an average export price of 1,000 dollars a tonne).
So far, only 2.124 tonnes have been exported, bringing the country 2.3 million dollars. The IAM added that there were still stocks of 19.673 tonnes of cotton fibre awaiting export during the first quarter of 2008 - or perhaps later if the companies decide to wait for the international price to rise. The cotton ginning also resulted in 40.000 tonnes of cotton seed, which is expected to be sold for 2.4 million dollars (at a price of 60 dollars a tonne). The price of cotton seeds has been rising, due to their potential use in biofuels.
In a different context it has been reported that the Labour Ministry has closed down a fertilizer company in the central province of Manica for gross violations of the country's labour legislation. According to a release from the Ministry, after a joint inspection the Labour and Health concluded that working conditions in the company were dangerous, and possibly lethal. The Mozambique Fertiliser Company Ltd, located in Gondola district, has a workforce of 150, who produce and bag fertiliser. However, they do so without protective clothing, and without social security. The Ministry banned any further activity at the company. It can only resume operations once it satisfies a long list of demands made by the inspection team. These include providing boots, gloves, facemasks and adequate clothing to all the workers, and giving each and every one of them a medical examination. The company must also set up a first aid post.
The company had not registered with the National Social Security Institute (INSS), and will not be allowed to re-open until all its workers have proper social security cover. The company was also ordered to take out collective insurance for the workers against risks of illness and accidents arising from the materials they are handling. The inspectors also found the company was ignoring basic rights concerning contracts, working hours and overtime. So the list of demands includes giving all workers (including part time workers) a written work contract, recording faithfully in an appropriate book all overtime worked, and establishing the legally required weekly period of rest, and lunch breaks. Physical conditions in the company must be improved by putting bulk produce in appropriate containers, and establishing proper routines for the removal of all waste. The factory also requires a drainage system for storm water, and the installation of fume extractors. (Agencia de Informacao de Mocambique, Maputo)

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