WA grain growers are in the box seat to tap into the thirsty South-East Asian beer market following the official opening of the Intermalt facility in the southern Vietnamese province of Ba Ria Vung Tau recently.
The US$70 million malting plant is run by Intermalt – a subsidiary of Interflour that is an equal partnership between the highly-successful Indonesian-based Salim Group and the CBH Group.
The plant, which took just under two and a half years to construct, will initially produce 110,000 tonnes of malt a year but that is expected to double by 2019 as demand for malt in Vietnam continues.
The majority of the malting barley will be from WA and as part of the commissioning phase, the plant has already sourced 42,000 tonnes of barley, with 32,000 tonnes of that coming from the Kwinana and Albany CBH zones.
Barley would also be sourced from other places including Argentina as the company looks to protect its supply chain and provide a consistent product.
The facility is adjacent to Interflour’s Cai Mep deep water port and grain storage facility that is built on 27 hectares, providing easy access to barley shipments and giving the company a major competitive advantage over any competition considering entering the market.
Intermalt has positioned itself to quench Vietnam’s beer consumption that is growing at an average of six to nine per cent over the past 10 years, with premium beers in most demand.
Vietnam is the 14th most populated country in the world, being home to more than 94 million people and beer accounts for 95pc of all alcohol consumed in the country.
The average consumption rate is about 36 litres of beer per year, per person, making it the biggest beer market in South East Asia and the third biggest beer market in Asia – only behind China and Japan.
This is in stark contrast to stagnant or declining beer consumption rates in developed countries.
The costs of producing beer in the region is also a major advantage.
Interflour Group chief executive and managing director Greg Harvey said more people moving from rural to urban areas was a key driver for the growth.
He said this has also increased consumption of other agricultural products as well and as more women in families were starting to work, they would have more income.
Mr Harvey said Interflour was proud to open up a new market for grain growers and offer its customers a quality product with reliability and consistency.
The malting plant has been uniquely designed to meet the challenges of processing malt in the tropics and includes all stainless steel structures.
The germination area has additional cooling capacity and can cool water and air as it is used, while the steeping house (that extracts compounds contained in malt) has small, conical steeps to increase the homogeneity of the malt and there is also a wider than normal kiln that has a thin grain bed with higher airflow.
“Intermalt will produce fine qulaity malt for the major breweries in Vietnam, as well as throughout South East Asia,” Mr Harvey said.
“We have been working with our customers to ensure the highest standards are met and product specifications can be achieved.”
Heineken, one of the world’s leading breweries, has invested heavily in Vietnam and will be one of the major consumers of product from Intermalt.
Intermalt general manager James Kirton said the huge beer consumption in Vietnam put Intermalt at the forefront of providing locally-produced malt to the doorstep of breweries in the region.
“This means big opportunities to support our customers’ businesses by providing just-in-time deliveries,” Mr Kirton said.
“We were able to leverage off Interflour’s bulk supply chain into Vietnam to make this investment really work.”