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Nov 02, 2007 15:19 EEST
November 2 (SeeNews) - Bulgarian-U.S. GPJ Prim plans to invest 200 million euro (289.4 million) in four food processing plants in Bulgaria that will export most of its production to the European Union, the company's CEO said on Friday.
The company plans to build a fruit and vegetable processing plant, a milk powder and an egg powder plants and a potato processing plant in three different locations by the end of 2009, Slavka Gigova told SeeNews.
“There is potential for this kind of production in Bulgaria and it can be easily developed. It [the output] will be exported, a very small part is to be sold in Bulgaria,” Gigova said.
Bulgaria is a traditional producer of fruit and vegetables and their prices are still relatively low compared to the EU average, as are labour and consumer costs. The scrapping of customs duties on the exports of goods and services effective January 1, when Bulgaria joined the EU, too acts as an incentive for Bulgarian producers to sell their production in the other member states.
Gigova said GPJ Prim plans to start building a 30 million euro fruit and vegetable processing plant in the southern Bulgarian town of Pazardzhik by the end of the year and expects to complete the project by the end of 2008.
According to the initial plan, the project should have been completed a few years ago by a joint venture between GPJ Prim and the Pazardzhik municipality but the municipality consequently withdrew from the project, Gigova said.
GPJ Prim (www.gpjprim.com) is 74%-owned by Bulgarian JPG and U.S. engineering company FES International and U.S.-registered industry equipment provider CIVEX Corporation own 10% each. The remainder is held by Bulgarian construction company Glavbolgarstroy.
“We already have export contracts for this first plant,” Gigova said, adding part of the production will be exported to the U.S. and Russia alongside the EU.
The plant will export production worth minimum 20 million euro yearly. It will process 500 tonnes of tomatoes per day alongside other fruits and vegetables.
“Capacities are big, otherwise we will not survive,” Gigova said but declined to provide information about the rest of the production capacity.
Bulgaria’s foreign trade in processed and canned fruit and vegetables rose 7.4% to 161.5 million euro in 2006, according to data of the Union of Cannery Producers in Bulgaria. The country produced 1.18 million tonnes of vegetables last year, up 35%, data of the union shows.
The milk and egg processing plant will be located near the Black Sea city of Burgas and the potato processing plant is to be built in the town of Parvomai in southern Bulgaria, Gigova said.
Gigova said a major problem for the company would be finding qualified workers who speak English or German. “We will need to go to the universities and look for people,” she said.
A number of officials of various industries have warned about a drop in skilled workers because of large emigration or inadequate training programmes. High emigration levels have been a problem for the ex-communist country in the last 15 years. According to data from Bulgaria's National Statistic Institute, 514,000 people had left the country between 1992 and 2001, but the unofficial figure is much higher.
Financing for the projects has already been secured by a foreign bank, Gigova said without naming it.
($ = 0.6905 euro)
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