Ajinomoto MSG plant to start operating in May
In May this year, Ajinomoto (Thailand) will start operating its new Bt6-billion monosodium glutamate production plant in Ayutthaya's Nakhon Luang district.With this new factory, Ajinomoto's monosodium glutamate (MSG) production capacity in Thailand will be close to that of its facility in Brazil, which is the largest producer of Ajinomoto-brand MSG.
Eiji Majima, vice president of Ajinomoto (Thailand), said the new plant would produce up to 64,000 tonnes, bringing the company's total capacity up to 200,000 tonnes per annum.
The new factory will employ about 150 people, though some of the production process will have to be automated in order to tackle the shortage of labour. Ajinomoto currently employs about 7,000 people in Thailand.
"The new MSG plant in Ayutthaya will focus more on domestic supply, while our existing facility in Samut Prakan's Phra Pradaeng district will be turned into an export base for markets in Asean and beyond, including Cambodia, the Philippines, Bangladesh and India," he said.
Majima added that Ajinomoto had set up a re-packaging factory in Myanmar in 1996, and all the MSG sold in that country had been imported from Thailand, but that was cut short after the Myanmar government banned the consumption of this food additive. However, with the open market policy in 2011, the Myanmar government lifted the ban and is now calling on foreign investors, including Ajinomoto, to introduce new technology in the country.
"We are looking to set up a factory in Myanmar, but for now the supply of power and raw materials is not good enough. Maybe it will take five years for electricity and raw materials, like tapioca starch, to be more available," Majima said.
He added that in addition to Myanmar, Ajinomoto (Thailand) had also set up a re-packaging factory in Phnom Penh. The Thailand-based branch also set up operations in Laos in 2011 and in Bangladesh last year. The parent company in Japan has also set up factories in Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines.
Ajinomoto currently operates 105 production facilities in 26 countries, and sells its products in 130 nations. The firm wants to boost its overseas presence from the current 50 per cent to at least 60 per cent in the next few years.
"Asean is now the most important region for Ajinomoto," Majima said, adding that the company set up its regional office in Bangkok in 2002, when it was fully controlled by the headquarters in Japan.
Now, Thailand has become the biggest market, contributing |20 per cent of Ajinomoto's sales. |About 30-40 per cent of the com-pany's total sales come from Asean, and Ajinomoto hopes to achieve |at least 10 per cent growth in the |current fiscal year ending March 2013. However, this target may be a bit difficult to achieve because Ajinomoto has been facing some stiff competition from producers in China, who are selling both MSG and lysine at prices up to 10-15 per cent cheaper.
Yet, global demand for monosodium glutamate has increased by about 4 per cent per year.
Ajinomoto's MSG factory in Samut Prakan, which was built in 1960 and went into operation the following year, was its first production facility outside Japan. In 1986, the company built a new factory for lysine, an important additive for animal feed, in Pathum Thani and opened another in Kamphaeng Phet in 1997.
In 2003, Ajinomoto set up a factory to produce ribonucleotide, another flavour enhancing seasoning sold under the brand Ajitide I+G, which is widely used in industrial food production such as instant noodles, canned food, seasonings, fish sauce, seasoning sauce, processed frozen foods and snacks. Up to 90 per cent of this factory's production is exported.
In 2005, the company also set up a factory for seasoning under the Ros Dee brand in Saraburi's Nong Khae Industrial Estate, with another set up in 2008 in an adjacent plot to produce "Birdy" canned coffee.