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Punjab industry fears job losses

A worker examines fabric at a textile factory in Faisalabad, Pakistan. – AP (File Photo)

LAHORE, Dec 4: The industry in Punjab has warned of more production and job losses as duration of weekly gas curtailment for captive power plants across the province increases with rising domestic demand on falling temperature.

The Sui Northern Gas Pipelines Limited (SNGPL) has already cut down gas supplies to the industry across Punjab from three-and-a-half days a week to five days.

With the industry facing six to eight hours of power cuts a day, many manufacturers claimed on Tuesday that they were running just two production shifts.

An SNGPL official told Dawn on the condition of anonymity that gas shortages would swell in the weeks to come due to sharp rise in domestic demand and it will not be possible for the utility to increase supplies to the industry.

Pepco has sounded a similar warning and its officials say that power cuts for the industry could rise towards the end of this month due to widening supply gap with canal closures from Dec 21.

Energy shortages for the industry in Punjab would not only halt production but also result in job and export losses, a textile exporter from Faisalabad told this reporter.

“We are going to miss our targets for the Christmas season due to energy shortages. This will also hurt our image as a reliable supplier in the international market,” he said.

Seventy per cent of the country’s textile industry runs on gas-based power with contracts ensuring a continuous supply for nine months a year.

During the last financial year, the industry faced gas cuts for 187 days. Since the start of this fiscal year, the industry has faced gas curtailment for 56 days.

According to a Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) estimates, at least 400,000 jobs have been lost in the province due to growing energy shortages for the industry.

“This sudden and surprise change in the gas supply schedule by the SNGPL is unfair. The anti-industry decision will jeopardise the industry’s production plans and will hit the industrial output and export. The country can hardly afford loss of production, exports and jobs at this moment,” a spokesman for the All-Pakistan Textile Mills Association (Aptma) said.