Loulé cement factory vows to stay open as demand grows

It has faced tough times, having been forced to shut down its furnace and even temporarily suspend many of its workers’ jobs, but those in charge guarantee that the future of Loulé’s Cimpor cement factory is not at risk.

So said Cimpor’s national boss Luís Fernandes in a recent interview with Barlavento newspaper.

“We do not plan to close the factory or any of its quarries,” he told the paper.

“The factory is in a normal state of production, which allows it to supply the national market as well as export what it produces while keeping the same number of staff members employed,” Fernandes said.

He added that sales in the national market have grown 20% so far compared to last year, with exports also up 23%.

However, he admits that the numbers are still shy of 2001, when production of cement in Portugal reached its peak.

“That is why we are committed to exporting. In our opinion, there is room to grow in the national market and exporting will be complementary,” Cimpor’s boss told Barlavento.

But it was not that long ago that the future seemed very bleak for the factory.

In September 2016, the factory’s furnace was closed and reportedly over 50 workers were laid off due to a “significant drop in the demand for cement, which reached its worst levels since the start of the 1970s”.

The decline was attributed to the “shrinking construction market” and Algeria’s decision to stop importing from the factory.

But as the market “recovered” in the last quarter of 2016, the company was able to reopen the furnace and resume production as well as re-hire the affected workers.

What may be changing is the factory’s board.

Fernandes confirmed that “it is part of Cimpor’s human resources policy to rotate those who are in charge”.

He said it helps them “improve their experience in different environments and contributes to their motivation”.

When asked to comment about how Faro’s huge €170 million plan for a dockland development could affect the factory’s exports to the north of Africa, Fernandes offered a vague response.

“CIMPOR is constantly analysing its operational efficiency and will use the infrastructures at its disposal to maximise the creation of value. The location of Faro’s port and its proximity to the factory are factors that contribute to the competitiveness of its exports”.

The factory – located 7kms outside Loulé in Cerro da Cabeça Alta – first opened 43 years ago.