PepsiCo to set up seaweed processing plant in Tamil Nadu

Monday, 31 December 2007, 04:24 Hrs
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Chennai: Beverage and snack food major PepsiCo India Holdings has plans to set up a Carrageenan biopolymer plant in Tamil Nadu, mainly for the overseas market.

Extracted from red seaweed, Carrageenan is a biopolymer used as a gelling/thickening agent in food processing and pharmaceutical industries. It is also used in beer as a clarifier, in toothpaste as a stabiliser and in shampoo as a thickener.

"By the third quarter of the next year we may set up the plant," Abhiram Seth, the company's executive director, exports and external affairs, told IANS. It will come up in either Mandapam or Tuticorin, both in Tamil Nadu.

According to him, the plant capacity and the outlay are yet to be fixed as they are dependent on the volume of seaweed available and the level of the plant's sophistication.

"If the weed is sun dried then the investment will be lower. On the other hand if it is to be machine-dried, the plant outlay will go up," he explained.

The minimum capacity of the plant will be 5,000 tonnes of dry weed per annum which would require an investment between 50 million and 100 million.

"We are yet to decide on the location. Ultimately the end product has to go out of Tuticorin," Seth remarked.

Tracing the company's initiative in seaweed cultivation, Seth said: "In 1999 we joined hands with the Central Salt and Marine Chemicals Research Institute to cultivate seaweed in Mandapam."

PepsiCo identifies the growers and provides them the knowledge and buys back the wet weed at 12 per kilogram. "The growers are largely women's self-help groups and we have around 60 such groups involved in seaweed cultivation in Mandapam," Seth said.

Sourcing around 620 tonnes per annum, PepsiCo in turn ships out the dried weed to its group facility in South East Asia for further processing into Carrageenan.

The company hopes to involve at least 20,000 in the seaweed cultivation in order to get a sizeable volume. According to Seth, an individual can grow 20 kg of weed every 45 days. One kilogram of dry weed can give 250 gram of Carrageenan.

The processing of dry weed gives a by-product sap, a plant nutrient/fertiliser.

Seth said the plant nutrient would be sold in the domestic market at an affordable price to farmers.

Depending on the success in Tamil Nadu, PepsiCo may look at setting up similar ventures in other coastal regions.
Source: IANS
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