Chinese company Quingdao Textile, which operates Zambia's biggest textile firm, has temporarily closed it down because of colossal losses.

The company, Zambia China Mulungushi, allegedly owes about US$600,000 to its suppliers and has been struggling to pay staff.

Managing director Che Ming said in a memo to staff: "Management regrets to inform you that we have suspended operations in the company for a total workforce of about 700, leaving only a skeleton staff of 300 to man vital installations at the plant."

According to Che, the staff will be on unpaid leave until 31 March, while Quingdao seeks turnaround funds.

Mulungushi's angered workers yesterday (3 January) appealed to Central Province Permanent Secretary Denny Lumbama to ask management to pay them unpaid wages.

Qingdao owns 66% of Mulungushi, the rest being owned by Zambia's government.

The company previously shut down in 1987 because of operation problems.