TOKYO -- Trading house Mitsubishi Corp. intends to open a plant in Thailand to fry, steam and freeze chicken for export to Japan and elsewhere, under a joint venture with local food company Betagro Group.
The 6 billion yen ($53.2 million) poultry processing facility is slated to debut in October in an industrial park in the central province of Saraburi. The factory, about 90km north of Bangkok, is expected to produce 30,000 tons of processed chicken meat a year. While some of the meat will be sold in Thailand or exported to Singapore, Hong Kong and elsewhere, Japan will be the main market.
The Japanese company will take a 50% stake in the joint venture, while group affiliate Itoham Yonekyu Holdings and Betagro each take 25%. A Betagro subsidiary processes 90 million broilers a year north of the planned factory, and Mitsubishi owns 25% of the broiler business as well. This broiler site will be a main supplier of chicken meat for the new processing plant.
Demand for chicken meat has been rising around the world as populations grow more health conscious. Mitsubishi sees Thailand as a suitable place to handle everything from poultry farming to meat processing, since the Southeast Asian country offers abundant water and corn, cheap labor and well-developed infrastructure.
Mitsubishi aims to acquire the know-how of processing chicken meat in-house and consider applying the expertise to cultivate markets in Europe and the Middle East as well.
Chicken consumption in Japan rose for three straight years through fiscal 2016, to 2.36 million tons. Japanese imports of chicken products from Thailand grew by double digits for two consecutive years through fiscal 2016.
In its home country, Mitsubishi owns convenience store operator Lawson, which sells fried chicken and other chicken snacks, and holds a stake in KFC Holdings Japan, a local unit of the U.S. fried chicken fast-food chain operator. The trading house's meat-selling operations have ties with supermarkets, restaurants and prepared-meal providers.