Portugal to privatize Silopor, state-owned grain storage company

by Teresa Acklin
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   LISBON — Portugal plans to privatize its debt-ridden state-owned grain storage company, Silopor S.A., which handles the bulk of the country's food and feed imports.

   Portugese newspapers reported that the state would pay off Silopor's 32-billion escudos (U.S.$172-million) debt to state-owned grain trading concern Epac, by issuing debt. Silopor, when it was created 12 years ago, was required to pay for silos inherited from Epac.

   Under the plan, Silopor will go into technical liquidation, but silos will continue to operate until the privatization takes place.

   The European Union is considering a proposal to inject 47.3 billion escudos (U.S. $254 million) of state aid into Silopor and Epac. The plan includes the payment of Silopor's debt to Epac.

   Epac also may be privatized this year if the E.U. approves the state rescue plan for the company, officials have said.

   Portugal imports 80% of its food ingredient needs; of that, about 70% passes through Silopor.

   Silopor operates silos in Beato and Trafaria in the Lisbon area, and in Leixoes, near the northern city of Oporto.