Protests shut down Tunisian phosphates plants

21 November 2011 14:39  [Source: ICIS news]

LONDON (ICIS)--Protests and strikes have stopped production at the state-owned Groupe Chimique Tunisien (GCT) phosphate fertilizer plant in Gabes, a spokesman for the Tunisian company confirmed on Monday.

Unrest has broken out in Tunisia as the newly elected coalition government convenes for the first time since national elections were held on 23 October 2011.

Demonstrations in Gabes city have led to the shutdown of the GCT production complex. It is not yet known when the political situation behind the protests might be resolved.

“Other [production] sites are working but phosphate rock deliveries to those sites have been stopped as well,” said the spokesman.

The plant is still recovering from problems arising from the strikes and public disorder that erupted earlier in the year.

Interruptions to the supply of phosphate rock led to one of the two diammonium phosphate (DAP) lines being shut down and output dropped by 50%.

More recently, output had been increasing – to around 70% – and GCT had focused efforts on buffering phosphate rock stocks.

Annual production capacity for the Gabes facility is 1.3m tonnes of DAP and 405,000 tonnes of 54% merchant-grade phosphoric acid when operating at full rates.

The protests have also disrupted production at the new Tunisian Indian Fertilizers (TIFERT) joint venture at Skhira.

The project is run by the Compagnie des Phosphates de Gafsa (CPG) and GCT and was scheduled to produce 360,000 tonnes/year of merchant-grade phosphoric acid from April 2012.

“This plant is also suffering from the blockades,” GCT said. “Production should have already started but has been delayed by the strikes and current societal difficulties.”

Tunisia holds a 70% stake in the project and the entire output will be shipped to India, which has the remaining 30% stake.

The government assembly is meeting to draw up a new constitution for the country after the revolution in January toppled 24 years of a dictatorship.

The movement, which became know as the Arab Spring, ignited subsequent uprisings in North Africa and the Middle East.

By: Karen Thomas
+44 208 652 3214

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