For three years now, Amil LLC has been operating in the Nizhny Novgorod Region, an enterprise for the production of modified starches, created jointly with the famous Swedish company Lyckeby Starch AB, one of the world leaders in the "starch" industry.
About how it was created, for whom it manufactures its products and how it plans to increase production, we are talking with one of the Russian founders of the enterprise, Oleg Martyanov.
- Oleg Alexandrovich, how did it happen that Lyckeby became a co-founder of an enterprise in the Russian region?
- The history of the appearance of Amil is closely related to the activities of the Starch Center Center. The holding has been cooperating with the Swedish company Lyckeby for about 20 years, supplying the modified starches of this brand to the Russian market.
Over time, Starch-Center directed a portion of its profits to domestic starch production in Russia and acquired two specialized plants - one in the Nizhny Novgorod Region (Syryatinsky Starch Plant) and the other in Oryol (Pleshcheevsky Starch Plant). Of course, we wanted to attract such a large and well-known European starch producer as Lyckeby into this project, but the Swedish company was initially negative. Lyckeby representatives came to one of the plants, evaluated his condition and categorically refused to work together. But time passed, and at some point, the leaders of the Swedish concern came to the conclusion that it is more profitable for them to produce starch for the Russian consumer on Russian territory, rather than supplying products from abroad. So, in 2015, the Amil company was created, and in 2017, production was launched.
Our factory is located in the Pochinkovsky district of the Nizhny Novgorod region, it is located on the territory of the Syryatinsky starch factory. The company is equipped with modern equipment and operates on effective European technologies.
- Amil produces modified starches for the food industry. Is it a marketable product?
- We have no shortage of customers. Modified starch - an essential ingredient for the production of meat products and semi-finished products, is used in the production of tomato sauces, mayonnaise, sour-milk products. But the volumes of production of such starches in Russia are small, in addition to our plant, only ND-Technik LLC (Stavropol Territory) operates for the needs of the food industry. Although this, of course, does not mean that there is no competition in the market. Modified starches are actively supplied from European countries, and foreign manufacturers have certain advantages over us. For example, significant volumes of production.
Amil is still a small enterprise. It was originally conceived as a designer - with the ability to gradually, “brick by brick”, to increase production volumes. Unfortunately, the pace of its development is not as high as we would like.
There are many objective reasons. One of them is a sharp increase in the cost of chemicals necessary for the production of our product. When we calculated the cost of future products, there were three factories in Russia for the production of the chemical components we needed, and by the time Amil was launched, only one remained on the market, which, having become a monopolist, raised prices above European prices.
Now our production is approximately one third of what we could do.
- Amil produces starches based on potato and corn raw materials. Is the “potato” or “corn” direction more important for the enterprise (if such a contrast is correct)?
- Each type of our product is designed to produce certain products, each has its own customer, in this sense both directions are important to us.
But potato is still a priority. Let me remind you that a co-owner of our company is a Swedish holding company that has been specializing in growing and processing potatoes for almost a hundred years. For Lyckeby, potatoes are the number 1 product.
In addition, we are located in a region where far more potatoes are grown than corn. So potatoes are closer and dearer to us.
- Concern Lyckeby, as you know, belongs to a community of farmers whose main area of activity is growing potatoes for processing to starch. Your company does not plan to organize the production of raw materials in Russian farms "on order", based on Swedish experience?
- Strictly speaking, Amil does not work with potatoes. Our company buys native starch from Syryatinsky starch factory. But issues related to the quality and quantity of raw materials also concern us directly.
Amil plans to develop production, and this means that the needs of the enterprise for raw materials will grow, and already in the short term we may run into its shortage. Therefore, first of all, we must consider the possibilities for increasing production at the Syryatinsky plant.
Now the bulk of the potatoes that are brought to Syryatino has a starch content of about 10%. The plant operates on waste. The amount of incoming potatoes also varies from month to month. In order to guarantee that we get the volumes of raw materials we need, we are launching a program to develop the production of highly starchy potatoes. I can’t say that we will fully transfer the Swedish experience, but we will try to use the best practices.
Under this program, we have already selected several Nizhny Novgorod farmers from among the regular suppliers and transferred them to plant seed varieties with a high starch content for planting.
Within three years we plan to reach a purchase volume of 40 thousand tons of potatoes (with starchiness of 20%) per year.
- Tell us more about the varieties.
- I would very much like to work with Swedish varieties. These are the achievements of famous breeders, the result of many years of scientific work, perfectly confirmed in practice. But, unfortunately, it is impossible to bring seed potatoes to Russia without many years of approval, so this year we selected varieties from those that were approved for use in our country.
Our Lyckeby colleagues will provide farmers with remote agronomic support. First, farmers will have to provide information about the state of the land, and on its basis they will receive the first technological recommendations.
- Will the contracts indicate the price at which potatoes will be purchased from farmers?
- Yes. In Sweden, the cost is fixed, and we try to follow the same path. Important note: the price is not tied to the lot weight, but to the percentage of starch in the tubers. That is, the farmer receives money directly for the starch contained in his potato.
But we understand that the market situation is unstable, therefore, the contract stipulates the possibility of price revision in case of significant changes.
- I have often heard the opinion that it is not profitable to produce starch from specialized varieties of potato on not the most productive lines of domestic plants. That profitability is preserved only when dealing with waste that farmers give for a penny. This is not true?
- This is a difficult question. We must understand that we can never offer farmers a price for potatoes higher than the price at which stores buy this product. But the plant has advantages: it is possible to conclude a contract for growing large volumes and for delivering the product for a long time.
In my opinion, farmers can pre-allocate part of the area for growing food potatoes, and part - for products for processing, and thus get the opportunity "not to put eggs in one basket", which is important in the current situation.
- And about the situation. Does Amil somehow feel the consequences of the disasters of spring 2020 (closing borders, instability of the exchange rate, etc.)? Has the pandemic somehow adjusted your plans?
- We faced a serious problem when, together with the entire domestic industry, the only plant that makes chemicals for us stopped working. And so, globally speaking, we overcome all the same difficulties as before. Basically, they are bureaucratic in nature. The dictatorship of the bureaucracy prevailing in the country suppresses the development of the whole society and economy stronger than any virus. Sweden, perhaps, built a more socialist society than it was in the USSR. And what happened now with us is closer to feudalism, to the Middle Ages.
I can’t note any noticeable changes regarding the demand for starch. In the first quarter, we recorded a short-term increase in sales, but this was understandable: enterprises were stockpiling so that at some point they suddenly did not remain without raw materials. Now everything has returned to the usual indicators, and so far we do not see the prerequisites for changes: in quarantine people eat about the same amount as without it. So we are working according to plan.