With Portugal’s deficit reportedly growing by €27.7 million per day as a result of the pandemic, one sector says it has been “completely forgotten”.
This is the time of year where normally the manufacturers of fireworks would be shipping product to every corner of the country.
2020 has thrown a monumental spanner in the works – and with New Year ‘cancelled’, the sector that is rarely even discussed publicly is looking at “millions of euros in losses”.
David Costa is the boss of the largest firework factory in Portugal, Pirotecnia Minhota in Viana do Castelo. He has been telling Lusa news agency that so far his profession has had “no type of support whatsoever”.
Yet the hammer-blow to business has been relentless. Since November Pirotecnia Minhota has lost over 1.5 million in orders that had to be cancelled due to restrictions on the holding of public events. This New Year he has just one order that remains – for a hotel that has booked fireworks valued at around €6,000.
“Everything else has gone”, he said – even the contract worth a million dollars for the 45th anniversary of independence last month (November 11) in Angola.
Of the 22 staff at Pirotecnia Minhota, only three remain. “The rest I have had to let go. For a seasonal activity like ours, the lay-off regime is a poisoned gift. My company would be in a much worse situation if it had adhered to lay-off. I have simply had to come to an agreement with the workers that if we get back into business, they’ll be needed and can come back whenever they want to”.
Even with the ‘positive news’ of a vaccination programme that will take months to make any kind of difference to restrictions in place, David Costa cannot see light at the end of the tunnel.
“I will hold on as long as my suppliers can hold on. But the day my suppliers, to whom I owe money, and my employees, to whom I owe money, cannot stand it, the company may need to file for insolvency”, he told Lusa.
The fireworks ‘season’ comes only once a year. “We invoiced at the end of last year, and we don’t invoice again again until now. At the end of a normal year, turnover would be around €300-€400. This year it is between 1% and 2% of that”.
Pirotecnia Minhota owes money, in the form of taxes and contributions, to the State as well. “It is a very complicated situation”, said Mr Costa.
Last month, the National Association of Explosive Products Companies (ANEPE) also accused the Government of “ignoring” the pyrotechnics sector – admitting, says Lusa, “new forms of protest”.
According to data from the National Statistics Institute (INE) cited by ANEPE, the manufacture of explosives and pyrotechnic products in Portugal represents a turnover of more than 40 million euros, “a very significant part of which is related to the supply of services for events ”.