DUSHANBE, April 6 (Reuters) - Tajikistan’s state-owned aluminium smelter, the largest in Central Asia, reduced output by 14.2 percent year-on-year in the first quarter of 2012 to 73,362 tonnes, a source close to the company’s management said on Friday.
Tajikistan Aluminium Company, known as TALCO, plans to produce 332,500 tonnes of primary aluminium this year. It produced 377,584 tonnes in 2011, down 20.4 percent from the total the year before.
Aluminium exports account for more than a half of Tajikistan’s entire export revenues. The country is the poorest of the 15 former Soviet nations.
Ex-Soviet neighbour Uzbekistan, which is the sole natural gas exporter to Tajikistan, halted its supplies of the fuel on April 1, after saying its three-month contract with Dushanbe had expired and it needed to fill a gas pipeline running to China.
Tajik industry officials said the move would deal a severe blow to the country’s shaky economy. A TALCO official said the company, which underwent a costly overhaul last year, could have to shelve its output growth plans if Uzbek gas was not supplied for a long period of time.
TALCO’s output grew by 8.9 percent in March compared to February, but fell by 12.0 percent year-on-year.
“Despite the absence of gas this month, we still hope to keep up our growth tempo and achieve our target for this year,” the TALCO source said on Friday.
Reporting by Roman Kozhevnikov; Writing by Dmitry Solovyov; Editing by Ed Lane