Brazil’s animal protein industry consists of various large cooperatives. One of the best known cooperatives is Lar, headquartered in Medianeira, PR, in the country’s south. With African Swine Fever ravaging Asia, opportunities are plentiful to step up its importance on a larger scale.
Inside the control room of the Santa Helena feed plant a large green smiley is hanging on the wall. It is looking at four employees watching their screens. “It’s a sign that the plant is very clean,” says Carlos Eduardo Varnier, age 34, manager of the feed plant. “We have got staff who go through the plant regularly to make sure that everything is nice and clean. Then we give it a rate. Today everything was just fine.”
Cleanliness and good biosecurity are two of the pillars of Lar, one of Brazil’s largest agro-industrial cooperative. Now more than ever, the cooperative realises that keeping things clean and tidy, and stringently so, can make the difference between profit or loss. For a few years now, times for Brazil’s agro-industry have not been fantastic, but with African Swine Fever creating tremendous losses in Asia, export opportunities loom. The disappearance of millions of pigs in China will lead to an increased demand for pork as well as any other given source of animal protein, like e.g. poultry, for which this particular plant is producing feed.
Although the cooperative has been in existence for 55 years, the cooperative Lar has recently been gearing up extensively in the south of Brazil. Varnier’s plant was founded with one feed production line in 2002, and expanded over the years to have four in 2016. All feed production lines were constructed in cooperation with Netherlands-based feed mill constructor Van Aarsen and their Brazilian distributor Schneider. Lar chose to cooperate with Van Aarsen because of the robust advanced feed production lines and good technical service.
Varnier has been working for 14 years for the cooperative and has been a manager for the Santa Helena plant for just under two years. There will be more expansion to come for the feed plant, he says. Outside the plant, at the time of the visit, construction was ongoing to have a new warehouse built for raw materials, whereby more optimal and more clever usage of the plant should guarantee that further growth is possible. For 2019, a total production is envisaged of 780,000 tonnes of complete feed for poultry (both broilers and broiler breeders), but in 2020 it is projected that the plant has to be able to do 900,000 tonnes.
Inside the plant indeed everything looks meticulous, with hardly any traces of dust to be seen. Staff is wearing protective clothes and helmets inside, walkways and storage areas are clearly defined on the floor and the rooms are kept tidy. Most important raw materials are soybeans and corn, all grown locally. In total 36 ingredients are being added, to lead to 13 different rations for the animals – eight being for broilers and five being for layers. The corn is being brought in at a different entrance to the soybeans at the facility, and from there is transported diagonally through a wire connection to the feed mill.
The majority of Lar’s business is concentrated around the poultry business, Varnier explains. In total the cooperative works with 1,500 poultry farm members, totalling some 20 million birds, in a 150km radius around the feed plant.
The Santa Helena plant obtains its feed raw materials from over 10,000 associate farmers from surrounding states like Paraná, Santa Catarina and Mato Grosso do Sul – and even farmers from neighbouring Paraguay supply to the Santa Helena plant. The larger supplying farms have specialised, explains Varnier. “Some smaller farms indeed do everything, from corn production to keeping livestock. The larger members only focus on growing crops.”
All in all, the message is very clear. Considering that the south of Brazil has a vast potential for growing crops and animal protein for the entire world, the opportunities had better be very well planned and protected. Preferably as cleanly as possible.
|Lar cooperative: Much more than only poultry|
‘Lar’ is a Portuguese word, meaning ‘home’ or ‘my place’. The cooperative Lar is one of the many existing in Brazil, as a large part of the country’s agriculture revolves around cooperatives. Lar cooperative, headquartered in Medianeira, Paraná, consists of 11,000 members and has roughly 13,000 employees. The cooperative covers the entire production chain, from multiplication and feed production to own slaughterhouses, supermarket brands, large retail shops and even a few gas stations. In the supermarkets, the cooperative sells own products and other traditional Brazilian brands. In addition, Lar buys products from elsewhere (even abroad). These are marketed under the Lar brand, which has a name of being good quality produce. The Lar supermarkets can only be found in southern Brazil, whereas the Lar brand can be found throughout the country and it is even exported to over 74 countries worldwide. Projected turnover in 2019 is R$ 6.95 billion (€ 1.58 billion).
In terms of swine production, Lar is integrated. The cooperative has 21,000 sows and an additional 4,000 sows through members. producing 650,000 piglets in 2019. These are being sent, however, to slaughterhouses and processing plants belonging to Frimesa, another cooperative from the south of Brazil. The products from these plants then can be found for sale in the Lar supermarkets as well as in supermarkets throughout Brazil.
The cooperative owns three feed plants – apart from the feed mill in Santa Helena, there is one for pig feed and one for dairy and beef cattle. The cooperative does not have beef cows of its own, but they do have 6,000 dairy cows. In 2018 they produced altogether 25.9 million litres of milk – estimates for 2019 are expected to be closer to 22.2 million litres.