Project Update

by Teresa Acklin
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Consortium building grain facilities in Turkmenistan

   Construction of four vertically integrated wheat handling and processing complexes is under way in Turkmenistan, according to Ibberson International, Inc., Minneapolis, Minnesota, U.S. Ibberson, a design, engineering and construction company, is actively involved in the U.S.$70-million project through a consortium it formed last year.

   According to Ibberson, the project is expected to be completed by October 1997 and will help Turkmenistan become self-sufficient in feeding its population.

   Karen Nobbe Stephens, a spokeswoman for Ibberson, said the four complexes would be distributed across the small country, located north of Iran. One will be in far western Turkmenistan near the Caspian Sea, two in the south near the border with Iran and one on the eastern side of the country near its border with Afghanistan.

   All four of the facilities will have 50,000 tonnes of grain storage, according to Jim Murray, senior project manager. One site will be capable of producing 150 tonnes of flour per day, and the three others will be capable of producing 200 tonnes of flour per day, Mr. Murray said.

   Each of the complexes will have facilities for receiving wheat from local fields or bulk imports, a cleaning house, a flour mill, a feed mill and a baking plant for producing bread to be provided directly to the local population, according to Ibberson.

   Mr. Murray said that all the facilities would produce more flour than the plants could use in bread production. The excess flour will be distributed to other area baking plants. The feed mills will process and mix millfeed with other ingredients for use as animal feed, he said.

   Ibberson's portion of the project includes engineering, selection, procurement and shipment of milling equipment and advisory services on the four project sites. Also a part of the consortium is Day Dis Ticaret Ve Turizm Yatirmlari A.S., a Turkey-based trading company with origins in the construction industry, Ms. Nobbe Stephens said. Its role includes supplying baking and other equipment for the project and technicians and supervisors for installation of equipment, she said. The third member of the consortium is Texuna International Ltd., a Hong Kong-based firm that is acting as the in-country agent for the group, she said.

   Mr. Murray said the baking equipment would come from Turkey. "The breads are unique to that part of the world. This also makes it easier for them to find bakers to operate the equipment," Mr. Murray said.

   But the bulk of the equipment was manufactured in the United States, Mr. Murray said. Most of the grain storage will come from Butler Manufacturing Co. of Kansas City, Missouri. The milling equipment was made by Buhler Inc., in both its U.S. and Swiss plants. Sifting equipment was supplied by Great Western Manufacturing Co., Leavenworth, Kansas, which provided rebolt sifters for each of the four sites, as well as one four-section and one six-section free-swinging sifter for milling processes. Equipment also includes Readsystems, Birmingham, Alabama, controls; legs from Schlagel, Inc., Cambridge, Minnesota; and drag con-veyers from The Rapat Corp., Hawley, Minnesota, Mr. Murray said, adding that most of the equipment had been built and was in transit to Turkmenistan.

   Turkmenistan's Ministry of Agriculture and Food selected the consortium to build the grain units in an international tender. U.S. EximBank and other U.S. banks have provided credit for a major portion of the project, Ibberson said. The consortium also is handling a part of the financing. Ibberson played a major role in helping Turkmenistan secure credit from U.S. lenders, and Day and Texuna helped arrange local financing, according to Ms. Nobbe Stephens.

   Building vertically integrated systems "is more in line with the way things have been put together in that part of the world," Mr. Murray said. "They don't have specialization over there. You need to include a feed mill because there is no separate feed industry over there," he said.

   According to Mr. Murray, the project is a priority for Turkmenistan as part of its efforts to feed its 4-million population since its independence in 1991 from the former Soviet Union.

   "Under the Soviet system, areas never had all of the elements to be self-sufficient," he said. "They want to become self-sufficient at least for the staples needed to feed their population."

   Turkmenistan is largely a desert country with nomadic cattle raising, intensive agriculture in irrigated oases and large gas and oil resources. Half of its irrigated land is planted in cotton, making it the world's 10th-largest cotton producer. It also has the world's fifth-largest reserves of gas and oil. Turkmenistan exports cotton, gas and petroleum products but imports much of its grain and other food.

   Mr. Murray said that the country was beginning to plant wheat but that, so far, its yields had been disappointing.

   He said that, even after the plants were operational, Ibberson would spend time training personnel and would assure the country that the facilities worked.

   "Many of these former Soviet states have been taken," Mr. Murray said. "They are unfamiliar with the free enterprise system, and they have paid money only to open a package and find junk. We will be there so they will know that when they push a button, everything will work and they will get what they expect."

Durum mill, pasta plant in Nuevo Leon, Mexico

   The Buhler Group, Uzwil, Switzerland, has been awarded a contract by Grupo Slimenticio Saba S.A., Nuevo Leon, Mexico, for the supply of a durum mill, two pasta production lines and production systems for making snack foods and breakfast cereals. The project is valued at about U.S.$14.5 million.

   The plant was expected to begin operations as early as the beginning of this year. Saba, a large Mexican industrial group, invested in the project to gain a foothold in the U.S. market from the production base in northern Mexico under North American Free Trade Agreement open markets. The family-owned enterprise, which up to now has been active in other industries, is expanding to include food production, and the new plant will be the heart of one of the country's most advanced food processing complexes.

   Equipment supplied by Buhler includes a durum mill, an installation for the production of high-quality pasta, plus several processing lines consisting of extruders for breakfast cereal and snack food production. System components will be manufactured at Buhler factories in Uzwil and in Toluca, Mexico.