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Fabián MENICHELLI, UIFRA: “We are prepared to compete”

15 February 20176 min reading
“Between the years 2010 and 2014, we have registered investments of approximately 100 million dolars which caused an increase of the aggregate installed capacity of around 25%. This positions us in an annual ton amount near 600,000 tons, which is, undoubtedly, a really decent figure.” fabianThis issue we have Fabián Menichelli, President of Dry Pasta Manufacturers’ Association of the Argentine Republic (UIFRA). Argentinian pasta industry is in the third place regarding the whole American continent. Stating that technical improvements made during the last six years allowed Argentina to considerably increase the technical capacity, Fabián Menichelli also stressed: “We are self-sufficient as regards all the supplies, and we do not import anything. What is more, our country currently has the vocation to place itself in a better position as a durum wheat and semolina supplier.” With Mr. Menichelli, we talked about the Argentinian pasta industry, technology investments, production capacity and future projects. We take the details from Fabián Menichelli. First of all, could you please introduce yourself and the Unión de Industriales Fideeros de la R.A.? My name is Fabián Menichelli, I am 53 years old, and I currently hold the position of President of the association that joins together all the dry pasta manufacturers of the Argentine Republic. Our association was established in 1902, and this is a fact that shows the great strength this activity has in our country. Could you give us some information about the Argentinian pasta industry? What can you say about the manufactured product groups, technology usage level and production capacity? The Argentinian pasta industry is in the third place regarding the whole American Continent, just behind Brazil and the United States. As important facts, we may mention our comparative advantages associated with the production of all types of wheat. And we can also stress the technical improvements made during the last 6 years, which have allowed us to considerably increase our installed capacity. On the other hand, our weak spot is an excessive dependence on the domestic market, of which we have become used to live. Nowadays, we are realizing that this is not enough. How is the approach of the pasta companies towards the new technologies? Is there any increase in the recent technology investments? Between the years 2010 and 2014, we have registered investments of approximately USD 100,000,000, which caused an increase of the aggregate installed capacity of around 25%. This positions us in an annual ton amount near 600,000 tons, which is, undoubtedly, a really decent figure. Unfortunately, the fact of having no exports is creating a very critical over-supply situation that harms the smallest competitors. Do all of the pasta producers in Argentina realize their production goes completely for the domestic consumption? Are there any export activities of these in your country? If there are, which countries are the export targets and what is the amount of these exports? The domestic market consumes only 330,000 annual tons, which leaves us at approximately 40% of our available capacity for exports. The reason why we are not exporting has to do, on the one hand, with a lot of very aggressive competitors at a global level and, on the other hand, with the absence of incentives in our own country. Nowadays, the Argentinian pasta industry does not have any refunds, or subsidies of any kind. The few companies that export are competing alone, from the outskirts of the world, and in a hostile context. What is the level of raw material in your country? How much of the raw material is processed in your country, and how much of it is imported? Which countries do you prefer for the imports? In this sense, our industry is autonomous. We are self-sufficient as regards all the supplies, and we do not import anything. What is more, our country currently has the vocation to place itself in a better position as a Durum Wheat and Semolina supplier. In conclusion, we can see that there are opportunities in each of the links of the pasta value chain. The fact of having wasted them until now is not only the responsibility of the government, but also of the companies, because we did not have enough organization. Could you please give some information on the pasta consumption amount and consumption culture of Argentina? What are the preferences of your consumers? The consumption per-capita is around 7.5 kg of dry pasta, and 1.5 kg of fresh pasta per year, which add up approximately 9 kg. Of course, in our country this is an absolutely mature market, with a consumption-top really difficult to break. Any changes must necessarily come together with deep cultural changes that could take a lot of years. In this sense, we have identified mainly two lines of work. One has to do with improving the participation of the durum wheat, and the other with diversifying the ways in which the consumer uses the product. What do you think about the future development of your country in terms of both the improvement of pasta industries and consumption amounts and preferences of your country? What are your future expectations about your industry? One of our priorities is the sector’s organization. We need to give our sector transparency, to create a brand. The country brand: Argentine Pasta. The activity has become more professional during these last 10 years. We have become much more aware of the position in which we are standing. But mainly, we have started talking about long-term goals. Such goal for us, nowadays, is 100,000 annual tons of exports for 2019. What do you think about your position when you compare your country to other American countries in terms of pasta industry? What do you aim in order to strengthen the position of your industry throughout the world in the future? I believe that we are factually over the regional average as regards pasta production. The Brazilian industry logically surpasses ours in volume, and they are still one of our references in several aspects. But I also think that our DNA is outstandingly different. Due to the structure of our industry, I notice that we have, generally speaking, great similarities with the Italian industry. We have durum wheat, the cultural legacy, and a great variety of small artisanal companies with a high added value spread all over the country. Do you have any projects for your industry that are being realized right now or will be realized in the coming years? We want to relaunch our industry to the world. We want to show that we are prepared to compete as regards quality, and that we can be serious and reliable suppliers. We are back, and with the intention of doing things really right.
 
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