Betagro VP Looks Forward to Expansion

THAILAND - Betagro Group, one of Thailand's leading pork producers, says its plans are on track despite the discovery of the first pig infected with H1N1 flu in the country.
calendar icon 23 December 2009
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Betagro Group, one of Thailand's leading pork producers, says its investment and sales expansion in the pork business remains on track, with no impact seen from the discovery of a pig infected with human type A (H1N1) influenza in Saraburi, reports Bangkok Post.

Betagro's 52-hectare farm in Lop Buri is fully SPF-certified. The Saraburi incident is therefore likely to benefit Betagro. The company is going ahead with plans for an official opening early next year of its new venture with Japanese partners to process pork into ham and sausage products, mostly for export to Japan.

"The Thai government and meat operators have ample experience handling bird flu in chicken over the past five years and quarantine systems for the livestock industry have been applied since," said Nopporn Vayuchote, executive vice-president of Betagro Group.

He added that Thailand was not the only country where the H1N1 virus was found to have spread spread from humans to pigs – the Saraburi case has no connection to Betagro – as more than 10 countries have reported similar cases.

Betagro, had applied preventive safeguards at its pig farms to contain the virus since early this year when H1N1 was first reported in pigs in Mexico.

Workers with flu are prohibited from entering farm sites, especially those farms that breed pigs under the high hygienic standard of specific-pathogen-free (SPF) system.

Mr Nopporn said: "Consumers are also aware that properly heat-treated products are safe. Therefore, the industry expects very short-term concern over any virus development."

Bangkok Post reports that the Saraburi incident, however, is likely to benefit Betagro which has focused mainly on premium-grade pork and processed meat manufactured under several joint ventures with big corporations from Japan over the past two decades.

Betagro Group has entered into a joint venture with Sumitomo Corp of Japan, enabling Betagro to initiate Thailand's only SPF swine farming technology and pork processing plant. Other joint ventures have also been established with the Ajinomoto Group to produce frozen cooked products using SPF swine.

In March this year, the company formed Itoham Betagro Foods Co with initial capital of 172 million baht (THB) with Itoham Food Inc, Ajinomoto Thailand, and the Itoham subsidiary Hoei & Co.

"The operation is on a test-run and exports from the venture will start once it receives approval from Japan's health authorities," Mr Nopporn said.

The company is confident the new operation would generate more than THB500 million in annual sales revenue by 2012 and contribute strongly to Betagro's swine business, which is expected to earn THB5 billion this year, from various products made from one million pigs.

The sales revenue is part of the estimated 50 billion baht Betagro Group expects to earn in 2009. Chicken remains the core contributor with about THB17 billion.

"We have a strong commitment to the swine business as we've aimed to balance revenue from our businesses, probably over the next five to 10 years," Mr Nopporn told Bangkok Post.

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