Brazil: Agrária Malte plans 240.000 tons expansion

Agrária Malte, the largest commercial malting group in Brazil that serves around 30% of the national malt market is planning a new malting plant with a yearly capacity of 240.000 tons. Following a recent expansion to 360,000 tons, Agrária Malte will become one of the ten largest commercial malting companies in the world with a total annual production of 600.000 tons.

The investment of BRL 1.5 billion (USD 262m) that was announced today is supported by the federal state Paraná and will be done by a pool of 6 agri-cooperatives lead by Cooperativa Agrária Agroindustrial, the owner of Agrária Malte. The other cooperatives are Bom Jesus/Lapa), Capal/Arapoti, Castrolanda/Castro, Coopagrícola/Ponta Grossa and Frisia/Carambeí. Together, they have a turnover of BRL 16.4 billion (USD 2.86bn) in 2020. The plant will be erected later this year, in an area between the cities of Ponta Grossa and Carambeí in the Brazilian state of Paraná.

“The project is the result of collaboration. With the implementation of the Campos Gerais malting plant, we want to increase the production of barley throughout the region, since all these cooperatives have knowledge in planting this grain. We will join forces and take advantage of the synergy. It is a bold project, which will generate revenue for the State and, mainly, result for our members,” said Jorge Karl, managing director of Cooperativa Agrária. "The Government of Paraná has given a lot of support to agribusiness, which facilitates agreements like this".

Paraná is the main producer of barley in Brazil. According to the Department of Rural Economy (Deral) of the State Secretariat for Agriculture, the state accounted for 60,300 hectares in 2019, that is 54% of the country's total barley acreage, an 8% increase from 2018. Another major barley growing area is Rio Grande del Sur, the state in the very south of Brazil which neighbors Uruguay with about 37% of the country’s barley production. Other minor producers are the States São Paulo and Santa Catarina with less than 5% of the total acreage each. With a production of 241,500 tons of barley, Paraná accounted for 60% of the country’s total production, an increase of 10% over the previous year.

The first estimates for this year’s production point to 303,600 tons, a volume that surpasses the result of the previous harvest by 12%. The expected area is 66,000 hectares, 3% higher than the 2019/2020 harvest.

“We have a lot of area to use during the winter. This whole south-central part of Paraná has no option, for example, of making a second crop of corn, which makes room for barley. We have good quality and productivity and a lot of ground to grow which makes life easier for small farmers,”explained the State Secretary for Agriculture and Supply (Seab), Norberto Ortigara.

“In such a difficult time for the economy of the world, here in Paraná we can see the strength of the cooperatives with the union of these six brands. It is a fantastic, ambitious project, which consolidates Paraná as a major cradle of barley production in the country,” said Paraná’s Governor Carlos Massa Ratinho Junior. "Investment that will generate more jobs and attract new beer industries to the State," he added.

The initial estimate is to generate 100 direct jobs, in addition to another 1,000 indirectly. In order to supply the new malting plant with barley, about 100,000 hectares for barley cultivation are needed, an increase of 50% of what is planted today. In addition, the state hopes to attract more breweries which can benefit from low raw material cost and cheap freight.

Cooperativa Agrária was founded in 1950 by German immigrants, so called Danube Swabians, who were expelled from their homes in what was then Yugoslavia after World War II for collectively being blamed for the actions of Nazi Germany. They settled in the south of Brazil and started cultivating the land how they had done it for centuries in their old homeland. In the beginning, the focus was on products such as soybeans, corn and wheat. In 1981, with the help of German experts, the cooperative started the production of malt from barley. The malting was initially a joint-venture of Agrária with the brewing group Antarctica which held a minority share of 40% in the joint-venture. Later Antarctica sold its share to Agrária.

Following the growing beer production, the annual capacity of the malthouse in Colônia Vitória, Entre Rios, Guarapuava / Paraná, was enlarged to now 360,000 tons of malt. After the latest enlargement Agrária Malte started to produce not only Pilsen malt but also Pale Ale malt, Vienna and Munich malts which are mainly destined for the growing national craft beer community.

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