Fast rise to the top

by Arvin Donley
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In just 10 years, Sayga Flour Mills has become Sudan’s biggest miller, capturing the leading share of that African nation’s flour market

Sayga Flour Mills has only been in existence for 10 years, and already it has become the leading flour milling company in Sudan, Africa’s largest country in terms of land area.

Within the last decade, the familyowned company has upped its daily flour milling capacity to 3,200 tonnes per day, built a port terminal in Port Sudan near its flour milling complex, and most recently constructed a new pasta factory. The complex, located in Khartoum, Sudan, also includes a blending plant, rail intake facility, vehicle maintenance workshop and Sayga’s Baking Development Center.

Keith Sutherland, general manager of Sayga, said these state-of-the-art facilities have made the company a leader in the production, processing, packaging, marketing and distribution of a wide variety of food products.

"None of what has been achieved in the last 10 years would have been possible without the vision and entrepreneurial spirit of the Daoud Latif family," Sutherland said. "The chairman, Osama Daoud Latif, had the vision to see that basic foodstuffs and quality were not mutually exclusive and set to work building a business that currently enjoys the leading share of the flour market in Sudan. "His brother, Ihab Daoud Latif (managing director of the Food Division), was charged with the responsibility of driving the business on a daily basis and is largely responsible for the phenomenal success story of Sayga."

Using equipment manufactured by Uzwil, Switzerland-based Buhler AG, Sayga operates five fully automated milling systems for producing flour, semolina and bran. These products are packed into bags of various sizes to meet the various needs of retailers and food processors.

Sayga, a subsidiary of DAL Group, one of the largest privately owned conglomerates in Sudan, also owns a port terminal at Port Sudan with 75,000 tonnes of storage capacity and three off-loading mobile units with a capacity of 1,200 tonnes per hour (tph). A rail terminal with 120-tph capacity, operating six locomotives and 130 rail wagons, handles bulk transport between the port terminal and the mill at Khartoum, in addition to a fleet of 100 hopper wagons and 155 trucks.

In 2006, the company expanded into pasta production with the completion of a new U.S.$9 million pasta factory. The facility was built with expansion in mind, and already the company is working to add a second 4-tph pasta line that should be operational by May 2007.

Sutherland said the new facility enables Sayga to process its own flours and make a new product for a market that is starting to develop in Sudan. The increased demand for pasta is due to population growth and an improving economic climate that has resulted in an improved diet, he said.

"Most of the pasta sold in Sudan has traditionally been imported and consequently is expensive," Sutherland said. "The Latif family saw a market opportunity of using semolina produced on their own mills to reduce raw material costs and provide a top-quality, short-goods pasta range at competitive prices."

While the company’s primary market is in the Khartoum area, Sutherland said there is growing potential in other parts of Sudan.

"We are developing the market upcountry by introducing pasta through our national distribution network, and we have already commissioned a national celebrity chef to promote our pasta on a national television cooking program that was shown daily throughout Ramadan this year," Sutherland said.

The pasta facility, which was designed and equipped by Buhler, has a short-goods line with an hourly production capacity of 2,000 kilograms (kg). It also includes bulk storage bins with an overall capacity of 100 tonnes, plus a short-goods stacker for the intermediate storage of pasta that is longer than four centimeters.

The production process starts as semolina is transferred by bulk tanker from the flour milling site at a rate of two to three loads (45 tonnes) per day and is dispensed into four 25-tonne silos. From there, the semolina passes through a number of sieves and is pneumatically conveyed via a cyclone to an inline weigher before going to a mixing chamber where water is added at a controlled rate.

After mixing, the dough is forced through a die and then cut to whatever length is specified. From there, the pasta enters a pre-dryer, which removes about 8% moisture, and then moves into the main dryer, which removes another 6% of the moisture, bringing the moisture content of the finished product to less than 12%. After a period of cooling, the pasta leaves the dryer and is conveyed to bulk storage. It is then packed in 300- and 400-gram polypacks at the rate of 120 packs per minute.

Sayga is also preparing to expand its flour production capabilities by adding sixth and seventh lines — with a combined capacity of 750 tonnes per 24 hours — to its milling system. Almost all of Sayga’s flour is sold in Sudan, and most of it is purchased by the 4,500 bakeries in Khartoum. Sutherland said many of the customers may only use a few bags per day but still rely on daily delivery. Consequently, Sayga sells its flour to third-party agents who collect and transport it to the end users.

Because there is no bulk flour trade in Sudan, the company packages its flour in 50-, 25- and 1-kg bags, with the 50-kg bags making up 90% of Sayga’s trade. The company also packs and sells 400 tonnes of bran in 40-kg sacks on a daily basis.

Sutherland said one of the reasons for Sayga’s success has been the quality of wheat it has imported through a strategic partnership with the AWB, enabling the company to be the country’s exclusive user of Australian wheat, which is known for its high quality and consistency. However, there will be changes in 2007 because the Australian wheat crop has been ravaged by drought and AWB is in danger of losing its export monopoly. Sayga is currently talking with other major exporters to secure high-quality wheat for 2007.

Sayga is in the midst of expanding its wheat storage capacity, which is currently 75,000 tonnes. Sutherland said 30,000 tonnes of additional storage is being constructed in Port Sudan and another 11,000 tonnes is being added in Khartoum. Both expansion projects should be completed by the end of March 2007, he said.

Sutherland noted that the flour milling market in Sudan is rapidly maturing and that the company’s future lies with developing businesses that add value to the products it produces. "We shall continue a trend of diversification that lessens our reliance on our core business of flour milling," Sutherland said.

Sutherland noted that all of Sayga’s production activities are carried out within a quality-assurance system backed up by the Certificate of Approval by Lloyd’s Register of Quality Assurance (ISO9001), awarded in 2001. "Our standards are the basis of our strength and the engine behind every positive change," Sutherland said.