Photos courtesy of Bühler Inc.
São Braz wanted a completely new and robust mill. After 30 months of planning, from conception to plant start-up, the company realized its plan and opened in June 2016 one of the most modern maize processing facilities in Brazil.
In recent years, there has been significant growth in demand for maize milling solutions in Brazil, said Bühler, based in Uzwil, Switzerland, which designed and constructed the São Braz project. Brazil produced a record corn crop of 98.5 million tonnes in 2016-17 and has seen total corn area expand by 50% in the last 15 years.
This year’s crop is forecast at 89 million tonnes with a decrease in first-crop corn area and a return to average yields. Relatively higher soy prices pushed more farmers in the Center-West region to plant corn as a second crop after the soy harvest. Low prices after the previous year’s record corn harvest and abundant global supplies also reduced the first-corn crop.
While Bühler is traditionally known for its wheat projects in Brazil, the company has visited areas throughout the country to showcase its capabilities in providing solutions for maize as well. The nation presents its own challenges, including high energy prices. To combat that, equipment must consume less energy and be more efficient. Corn quality in Brazil can fluctuate, requiring processing equipment that can be flexible to the changes in the raw material.
Since its founding in 1951, the company has invested in new products and technologies. São Braz is among the six largest coffee roasters in Brazil and has one of the country’s most complete coffee lines, with eight different blends, in 16 weights and types of packages, and has its own technology for blending coffee, according to the standard of each grain.
Overall, the company operates in several food segments with different products. Along with coffee, its products include cereal bars, cookies, hominy, breakfast cereals, maize flour, popcorn maize, cake mixes, donuts, condiments and snacks. Although the company is located in northeastern Brazil, its products reach supermarkets throughout the nation.
The Cabedelo facility is one of the most modern manufacturing plants in Latin America and employs more than 1,000 people. The company also has an industrial unit in Itatiba, São Paulo, where it manufactures inputs for several other food industries.
Raw material for the Cabedelo production facility is purchased in Brazil. There is no exclusive supplier since purchases depend on the harvest and market price. Typically, São Braz buys maize from producers in Mato Grasso, Bahia and has occasionally purchased imported maize from Argentina.
The São Braz maize mill in Cabedelo has raw material storage of about 12,000 tonnes in four external silos. The building has five floors and is about 30 meters tall, with a total area of about 25,000 square meters.
Maize is stored and pre-cleaned in the external silos and is sent to the cleaning section inside the factory. At this stage, the maize passes through MTRC separator machines for the removal of impurities and grain classification by size.
The separators free the grain of coarse impurities such as large kernels, strings, straw, wood, stones and clods of soil, and from fine impurities like sand or broken grains.
Maintenance required by the MTRC is kept to a minimum thanks to fast and easily changeable sieves, easily exchangeable wear parts and the absence of lubrication points.
Kernels pass through the MTCD Combinator to classify fractions with higher and lower density. At the same time, that machine removes the stones from the raw material. Combining separation of low-density product and stone removal in one compact housing reduces the space requirement to a minimum. Cleaned maize is reserved in a silo, waiting for the next steps.
After cleaning, it is time for the maize degermination, which is done through the passage of humidity controllers, dampening screws and then through the MHXM degerminators.
Due to intensive processing, a high degree of degermination is achieved for a maximum yield of the main product. Since the process requires neither adding water nor pre-conditioning with steam, operating and investment costs are reduced.
The products leaving the degerminators are conveyed to the next stages of the process, where the hominy grits are destined for milling in the MDDP roller mills and then to the MPAP Novapur plansifters.
With the different fractions of degerminated maize, São Braz can use the products for the manufacture of its various foods, including couscous, condiments based on maize flour, snacks or breakfast cereals.
The couscous is made through a Bühler flaker line with OLFB flaking mills. The flaking mills integrated feeding and mixing system increases throughput and overall flaking mill efficiency.
The use of high-grade, centrifugal cast compound rolls and a patented roll end sealing system reduces wear and tear and residual oil in the extraction meal by up to 15%.
The new drive concept features a single overhead drive mounted on top of the machine. Other features include the integrated hydraulic unit and the machine control system mounted ergonomically on the service door. This means the mill requires up to 25% less plant space.
The friction-optimized main drive and serpentine drive system considerably reduce drag and power consumption.
The mill has the capacity to produce up to 800 tpd, and it is fully automated. It has a small number of operators, about seven people per shift, and systems in place for food safety.
An internal pressurizing system helps in pest control and maintains a balanced temperature between the mill floors.
Brazilian corn crop to drop 10% from record high
Following record corn production of 98.5 million tonnes in 2016-17, Brazil’s production is forecast down 10% in the new crop year as total area is reduced and yields return to average, according to a report from the Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Production in 2017-18 is estimated at 89 million tonnes, with a reduced area for first- and second-crop corn. Overall crop area has decreased to an estimated 16.4 million hectares, with significant decreases in first-crop corn and smaller decreases in second-crop. About 70% of Brazil’s total harvest now comes from second-crop safrinha corn, according to Brazil’s National Food Supply Company (CONAB).
First-crop corn area has shrunk in the last decade as higher soy prices encouraged farmers to plant corn only as a second crop after soy. CONAB reported an 8.9% reduction in first-crop corn area, the smallest in 40 years.
Second-crop corn is also down, partly due to delays in soybean planting in Mato Grosso due to dry weather. This delayed early soybean harvest, which narrowed the ideal window for planting second-crop corn, the FAS said.
Many farmers don’t see a downside in planting outside of that window because government support programs will guarantee a minimum price, the FAS said.
Exports for 2017-18 are forecast slightly lower to 33 million tonnes, reflecting the lower production forecast. The largest export market is Iran, which received about 16.5% of Brazil’s corn exports in 2017. Brazil’s corn imports are negligible, with small amounts coming from Paraguay and Argentina to supply livestock operations in the southern part of the country, the FAS said.
Most of Brazil’s first-crop corn is used domestically for poultry and livestock while a large portion of the second-crop traditionally has been exported. But with large corn stocks from 2016-17, low prices and expansion of corn production, the door has been opened for non-traditional types of consumption, the FAS said.
FS Bioenergia is operating an ethanol plant using corn as a feedstock. It reached full production capacity within three months of opening and is now undergoing an expansion that will bring total ethanol production to 140 million gallons per year and corn consumption to 1.26 million tonnes.
It recently announced plans to build a second plant in Sorriso, Mato Grasso, that will produce 180 million gallons per year and process 1.8 million tonnes of corn.