Miller expanding in East Africa

by Arvin Donley
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The largest producer of wheat flour in East Africa increased its leading position recently with the completion of new milling facilities in Kigali, Rwanda and Nacala, Mozambique.

Bakhresa Grain Milling, a subsidiary of Tanzania-based Bakhresa Group, operates mills in Tanzania, Rwanda, Uganda, Malawi, Mozambique and Burundi with an overall annual milling capacity of nearly 900,000 tonnes.

That total will increase again in 2013 as the Rwandan and Mozambique facilities increase their daily milling capacities from 250 tonnes to 500 tonnes.

Abubakar Bakhresa, managing director, Bakhresa Grain Milling (Malawi) Limited and Bakhresa Grain Milling (Mozambique) Limited, said the recent investments are important steps in the long journey of Bakhresa Group, which has been in the flour milling business for nearly 30 years.

“We have to look back and pay tribute to all of those who tirelessly worked to bring us to this level,” he said.

Abubakar Bakhresa said that Bakhresa Group, founded by his father, Said Salim Bakhresa, started as a humble restaurant/bakery in the early 1970s in the Tanzanian port city of Dar Es Salaam. He noted that his father “dropped out of school at age 14 and slowly worked his way up — starting as a petty seller of potato mix and a shoemaker, then opening a restaurant and, finally, becoming an industrialist with ever-increasing activities.”

In the early 1980s, the company moved into flour production to meet the growing shortages in Tanzania.

Today, 70% of the Bakhresa Group’s business derives from wheat flour production, while other business interests include fruit juices, ice cream, drinking water, carbonated soft drinks, bread, biscuits, confectionaries, polyethylene sacks, laminated bags, packaging, printing, paper bags, petroleum trading, ferry services and satellite telephones.

New mills

For many years Bakhresa exported flour to Rwanda so it already knew the market well when it decided in 2009 to purchase land and build a mill in the Special Economic Zone near the Rwandan city of Kigali, said Mounir Bakhresa, managing director of Bakhresa Grain Milling Rwanda.

He said the company was encouraged to establish a plant in Rwanda due to the high cost of importing and through the support of the Eastern African Community (EAC) customs union. EAC is the regional intergovernmental organization of Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi.

The company secured financing from the International Finance Corporation (IFC) for the land acquisition, mill construction, new equipment, infrastructure, warehouses and transport trucks.

Similar financing arrangements were obtained from the IFC for the grain storage facility and wheat milling plants in Mazambique and Malawi, Mounir Bakhresa said.

The $24-million facility, which began operations in May 2011, produces flour under the popular brand name “Azam.” The different types of flour it produces includes Azam white gold, Azam special baker’s flour, Azam biscuit flour, Azam cake flour, Azam brown bread flour and Atta flour.

Mounir Bakhresa said the Rwandan mill sources its wheat primarily from the world market due to the lack of supply and high prices of African wheat.

Bakhresa Grain Milling is currently working with Rwanda’s Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources (MINAGRI) to assess the potential to grow wheat in Rwanda. It has planted a crop already and is analyzing the results to determine the quality of yield.

Most of the imported grain is transported via rail from the Port of Dar es Salaam to Issaka in Tanzania. It is then transported by truck to the mill. The wheat is pre-cleaned by an automated process and then dumped into four silos, each with 4,000 tonnes of capacity.

Mounir Bakhresa said provisions are being made to double the storage capacity in the near future, which will ensure that the facility will not run out of raw material.

Wheat is drawn from the silos and put into the Bühler AG cleaning system, which includes screening, separation, aspiration and scouring. Mounir Bakhresa noted that the system was installed with future expansion in mind. The grain is then dampened and placed in temporary bins for 24 hours before being sent through the milling system which includes Bühler grinding and sifting equipment.

“Bakhresa’s equipment was purchased from Bühler primarily, while some of the equipment came from other parts of Europe,” he said. “The sourcing destination has not evolved over time despite the costs associated with the Swiss machinery. This is due to its long-standing quality.”

Mounir Bakhresa said the Rwanda plant produces wheat flour primarily for local customers, with about 20% exported to the Democratic Republic of Congo. Some of the flour will be transported to its Rwandan customers by truck (the company owns a fleet of 23 trucks), although most of it is collected by customers directly from the mill.

The mill’s byproducts, bran and pollard, are sold to local farmers, with the remaining amount being transported by truck and rail to Dar es Salaam for export, he said.

The production rate at the Rwandan plant is typically 78% flour and 22% bran and pollard, although these quantities may vary depending on the quality of the grain received, he said. The flour is packaged in 2-, 25- and 50-kg bags, while the bran and pollard is stored in the bags in which the grain is received prior to sale as animal feed.

The plant includes the first bag palletizer — Bühler’s MWPY series — in East Africa.

Bakhresa is one of two wheat flour producers in Rwanda, vying with Pembe Flour Mills for market share.

Bakhresa generated $21.9 million in revenue in 2011 and employs approximately 100 full-time workers, along with another 60 part-time laborers. Fifteen of the employees at the Rwandan plant are expatriates from India, Kenya, Tanzania and France who occupy senior finance, production and technical roles.

Because most of the equipment is new, senior managers and technicians are sent to Bakhresa headquarters in Tanzania for training, Mounir Bakhresa said. The company also provides some training at the Rwandan mill.

The company’s other recent expansion project was in Mozambique, where a facility in Nacala, with 250 tonnes of milling capacity, began operations earlier this year. The $30-million facility, which took 18 months to construct, mills hard wheat and semi-hard wheat into flour for bread making.

“We have got mills in Tanzania and Malawi which were already catering to the northern Mozambique region where our flour products are very popular,” said Peter Muni, general manager, new projects, Said Salim Bakhresa & Co. Ltd. “Considering we have a grain terminal in Nacala, this was a natural expansion.”

The Mozambique facility imports wheat from the world’s top wheat-producing countries and stores it in bins with an overall capacity of 30,000 tonnes — six bins each with 5,000 tonnes of storage.

As with the facility in Rwanda, Bühler supplied most of the equipment and also did the engineering work in concert with an engineer from Bakhresa Grain Milling.

He said the mill was designed with the following goals in mind: higher extraction rates, the highest standards in sanitation and high levels of automation.

The mill flow begins with wheat passing through a Combi-cleaner, Trieur, scourer and a turbolizer for water addition for first tempering.

After going through a second tempering, the wheat moves through a wheat peeler and then into the roller mills and sifters. After milling, the flour is pneumatically conveyed into storage bins and is packed into 50-, 25-, 20-, 10- or 5-kg bags via carousel or single spout packer. The flour is transported by truck to local bakeries and supermarkets.

“The most popular bread in Mozambique is the bun, namely PAO bread,” Muni said. “Although we do not have the data, I would say Mozambique’s per capita bread consumption is increasing because of the rising income.”

The bran produced at the Mozambique mill is either bagged as loose bran or is pelleted with Bühler’s bran pelleting system. It is then transported by truck to local farms for animal feed usage.

The company is planning an expansion of the plant in 2013.