In investing in various countries worldwide, Seaboard Corp. has taken anything but a cookie-cutter approach. The following is a sampling of the diversity of Seaboard operations and experiences in the various locations in which it has invested.
Various subsidiaries of Molinos del Ecuador include a shrimp larvae laboratory in Sta. Elena; feed mills in Guayaquil and Ibarra; and joint ventures involved in hog and broiler production as well as the manufacture of polypropylene flour and feed bags. The pork operation processes cold cuts and sausages sold throughout Latin America.
In the Congo, Seaboard is participating in the Kivu Wheat Growing Project in conjunction with CIMMIT. Together with local growers, the company tests and multiplies wheat seeds for local growers. The company has purchased a small additional flour mill (80 tonnes daily capacity) in the Kivu region to grind the locally grown wheat and to encourage wheat growers. The flour is sold to local bakeries. Operations in the Congo include a six-story office building in Kinshasa and a coffee and trading business.
In the 1980s, a lack of foreign exchange, political instability and insecurity adversely affected operations. The company depended entirely on the supply of wheat under P.L.480, which was erratic. In the 1990s, conditions for the business worsened because of civil war. Operations were reduced because of poor sales volume, especially to provincial towns and villages. More recently, the company has seen a recovery to earlier sales levels.
In its most recent acquisition, Seaboard earlier this year paid $7.5 million for a 35% stake in Unga Holdings in Kenya. In addition to flour milling, the company mills corn and manufactures feed. It also owns farm supplement operations throughout the country.
The 456 employees of Life Flour Mills include automotive mechanics, diesel mechanics, electricians, electronic technicians, partners, plumbers, welders, masons and a painter, in addition to the milling, packing and maintenance crew. The staff also includes 160 employees responsible for security. For six years between 1986 and 1992, wheat imports were banned from Nigeria, and the mill was forced to grind maize and sorghum. The business has not fully recovered from the wheat ban and continues to operate well beneath capacity.
When Seaboard and Continental Grain Co. acquired a stake in Les Moulins de Haiti in 1998, the mill had been closed for seven years, or since a wheat embargo was imposed by the U.S. More than $10 million has been spent in renovation of the mill. The mill has been operating at full capacity, and an increase of 100 tonnes per day is in progress, with completion set for early 2001.