"We aim to start a corn milling unit with a daily 800- to 1,000-tonnes processing capacity by 2014," said Siraj Chaudhry, chairman of Cargill India.
At the moment, the company is busy acquiring land in Davangere, Karnataka, India’s top corn-producing state. Indeed, India is the second-largest grower of the grain in Asia after China. The first phase of Cargill’s processing unit is expected to be up and running by the third-quarter of 2014.
"Our plant will cater to the growing demand for modified starch in the processed food segment," said Chaudhry.
Demand for modified starch, which is produced from corn, as a sweetener and thickener for the food and drinks industry is growing at 10-15% in India. The country harvested 21.6m tonnes in the year to June 30, 2012, just short of the record 21.7m tonnes during the previous year. Domestic consumption runs at 17 to 18m tonnes a year.
Cargill also aims to increase its existing cooking oil refining capacities in the three plants that it runs in the country that tops the list of vegetable oil imports.
India's output for edible oils meets only about half of its domestic demand. It mainly imports palm oil from Indonesia and Malaysia, as well as a small quantity of soy oil from Brazil and Argentina.
Recently, Cargill signed an agreement with Wipro to acquire the latter’s flagship Sunflower Vanaspati brand. The move is expected to strengthen Cargill’s existing portfolio of edible oil and hard-fat vanaspati brands, and also to expand its market reach in India’s palm oil and derivatives market.
Cargill plans to raise its current daily refining capacity by a quarter to 5,000 tonnes a day, investing about Rs1bn over the next two years, taking its total investment to more than $91m.