Dubai: How many giant silos does it take to feed all of the UAE’s requirement of pulses for six months? The answer – 12 of them, with a combined storage capacity of 52,000 tonnes.
That’s the answer from Harish Tahiliani, Managing Director of Ajman-based Arab India Spices. He should know because his company has just spent Dh200 million to build 12 of them, at the Hamriyah Free Zone in Sharjah.
“That’s right, 52,000 tonnes of raw material storage should be enough to meet demand for up to six months,” said Tahiliani, ahead of the commissioning of the silos this week. “The initial plan was to lease out some of the silos to third-parties… but now, we intend to retain all of them for our own use.
“The plan is to raise capacity at our lentils and pulses processing plant in Ajman from the current 700 tonnes a day to about 1,000 tonnes in phases. When the expansion comes on line, we will need all of the extra storage the silos can offer for the raw materials.” Arab India Spices, which is headquartered in the western Indian state of Gujarat, launched its Ajman operations in 2006.
What are food silos?
These are essentially large containers used to store bulk materials, and mainly used in the farming industry to store wheat and grain. At a time when food security is topping national agendas, their presence on the landscape will only grow.
How big are these?
Quite substantial going by appearance alone. In actual measurement terms, eight of the 12 are of 5,000 tonnes each and the other four of 3,000 tonnes apiece.
Does the company plan to get into rice as well? Tahiliani ruled it out saying that it wouldn’t fit into their model, and that there are quite a few brands with an already entrenched presence in the region and other export markets.
The company’s ‘777’ brand is available across the Gulf markets, and the intention now is to gradually extend shipping opportunities to Africa. Again, the silos and the additional capacity at the Ajman plant will come in handy.
“There’s always opportunity and uncertainty in equal measure when it comes to Africa,” said Tahiliani. “But what’s undeniable is the huge demand that exists there for food essentials. This is why one reason we decided to have the silos in Hamriyah – the storage and transportation costs make it possible to make a move into Africa.”
A period of uncertainty
For the food commodity markets, the immediate future will bring in a bit of turmoil. Much depends on how quickly – and well – China recovers from the bout with the virus. “China on its own is not into food commodities in a big way – but still the effect will be felt because China sucks up a lot of the global shipping container movements,” said Tahiliani.
“That’s going to the worry – any shortage of containers will translate into higher costs for the food trade. That’s what I think.”