Maize is one of the important crops of Pakistan and has great potential due to its high nutritive value and commercial use. Maize (also known as corn) is a common name for a cereal grass widely grown for food and livestock fodder. Maize ranks with wheat and rice as one of the world’s chief grain crops. Maize is the major raw material for production of starch.
The worldwide corn crop is 600 million tons per year. Nearly 10% of this is made into starch or starch derived sweeteners making corn starch the largest starch commodity in the world.
Maize starch is employed in the manufacture of asbestos, ceramics, plastics, oil and pharmaceuticals. The derivatives of maize starch include glucose or corn syrup, corn sugar and industrial alcohol which are used in different industries. Other commonly used sources of starch are wheat, potato, tapioca and rice. Genetic modification of starch crops has recently led to the development of starches with improved and targeted functionality. The bulk (99%) of the total corn production comes from two major provinces, KPK, accounting for 51 percent of the total area and 30 percent of total production and Punjab contributing 48 percent area, with 69 percent of total corn production.
The production and yield in Punjab is higher than KPK mainly due to the use of hybrid seed and adoption of better agronomic practices. In Punjab the cultivation of corn is concentrated in Sahiwal, Arifwala, Pakpattan, Chiniot, Vehari, Lahore and Kasur areas. As for KPK, corn cultivation is scattered in different areas due to low land holdings.
Production Process of Maize/Corn Starch in Pakistan
The production process of maize starch and related products is given below in detail:
Inspection & Cleaning
Approximately 70 percent of the kernel is starch (from the endosperm), about 10 percent is protein (predominantly gluten), four percent is oil (extracted from the germ), and two percent is fiber (from the hull). It is the goal of the corn refining process to separate each component and then further refine it into specific products. Corn arrives at the refining facility by truck, barge or railcar. Refinery staff inspects the corn shipments and cleans them twice to remove pieces of cob, dust, chaff, and foreign materials. The corn is then conveyed to storage silos, until ready to go to the refinery for steeping, the first processing step.
The clean corn is fed into the steeping tanks. During steeping, the kernels absorb water, increasing their moisture levels from 15 percent to 45 percent and increasing the size to more than double. The addition of 0.1 percent sulfur dioxide to the water prevents excessive bacterial growth in the warm environment. As the corn swells and softens, the mild acidity of the steep water begins to loosen the gluten bonds within the corn and release the starch. After steeping, the corn is coarsely grounded to break the germ loose from other components. Steep water is condensed to capture nutrients in the water for use in animal feeds and as a nutrient for later fermentation processes. The ground corn, in water slurry, flows to the germ separators. A complete steeping process in one tank includes four stages:
- Put the steeping solution and corn into the steeping tank
- Steep corn
- Discharge steeping solution
- Discharge the steeped corn
Grinding, Germ Separation & Fiber Separation
The steeped corn is fed into the first crusher through feed hopper, the germ can be separated after crushing. A portion of starch will be released. Grinding includes two steps:
- First Crushing
- Second Crushing
After each grinding step, there are two-stage de-germing cyclones for separating the germ. The bottom flow of 1st de-germing cyclone flows into the bend sieve depending on gravity, the overflow flows into the second crusher. The overflow of the 1st de-germing cyclone firstly separates the germ, the overflow contains some starch, in order to recover these starch, use a three-stage bend sieve with process water to wash away the free starch. The washed germ is de-watered in a horizontal spiral centrifuge. The bottom flow of 2nd de-germing cyclone flows into bend sieve, the starch milk will be extracted (the screened starch), the overflow the bend sieve will flow into the grinding mill.
The bottom flow of the crusher is pumped into a multistage bend sieve system. The bottom flow of the 1st stage bend sieve is the remaining of the screened starch. The overflow containing fibers will be pumped into the subsequent stages and washed to recover the remaining starch.
Starch & Gluten Separation
Gluten has low density compared to starch. By passing mill starch through a centrifuge, the gluten is readily spun out for use in animal feeds. The starch, with just one or two percent protein remaining, is diluted, washed eight to 14 times, rediluted, and washed again in hydroclones to remove the last trace of protein and produce high quality starch, typically more than 99.5 percent pure.
Starch, suspended in water, is liquefied in the presence of acid and / or enzymes which convert the starch to a low-glucose solution. The overflow of the primary centrifuge contains few proteins. The gluten, water and protein particles are concentrated by centrifuge, then recovered by vacuum filter de-watering. The overflow of the cyclone can be used as processed water. The starch separated by the primary centrifuge is washed and refined by multistage cyclone, the washed water comes from the user’s water supply system. Before washed water is fed into the multiple stage cyclone, the foreign impurities will be removed by de-sanding and filtrating apparatus.
The starch milk refined by multiple stage cyclone flows into the starch milk tank, then pumped to the dewatering, drying and packing units stipulated in Tapioca starch processing line.
Key Success Factors for Starch Production in Pakistan
One of the key success factors for the proposed project would be to control and carefully monitor the entire production process as it involves high waste production in the form of Fibre, Protein, Oil, Ash and others. Another important aspect of this proposed feasibility is the marketing and promotion of the produced Maize Starch and Related Products in the local as well as foreign Market. This involves allocating a heavy budget towards promotional activities.
Key success factors are:
- Utmost care taken while selecting maize grain. Only the best quality grains should be used.
- Waste production should be kept at minimum and production process needs to be monitored very carefully.
- Advance sale orders can ensure the success of the business.
- Product should be offered in different price ranges, so it is affordable to all income groups creating a wider target market.
- It is recommended to estimate the maize grain requirements for the year and this should be contracted for in advance with the suppliers so as to secure from the drastic changes in the prices of the maize grain.
- Quality maintenance will play an important role as it is evident from the behavior of the general consumers that they are more specific towards health issues than ever before.
- Cost Accounting system should be strengthened so as to monitor the entire process and determine the reasons for major variances in the process such as Material, Labor and Factory Overhead Variances.
The bulk (99%) of the total production comes from two major provinces, KPK, accounting for 51 percent of the total area and 30 percent of total production and Punjab contributing 48 percent area, with 69 percent of total corn production. The provinces of Sindh and Baluchistan produce a very small quantity of corn. The production and yield in Punjab is higher than KPK mainly due to the use of hybrid seed and adoption of better agronomic practices. In Punjab, the cultivation of corn is concentrated in Sahiwal, Arifwala, Pakpattan, Chiniot, Vehari, Lahore and Kasur areas. As for KPK, corn cultivation is scattered due to low land holdings. Approximately 65 percent of the maize in Pakistan has access to irrigation; the remainder is farmed under rain-fed conditions.
Investment Required for Corn Starch Business in Pakistan
The installed production capacity of maize starch unit is 1.25 tons per hour which adds up to producing 10,800 tons of maize starch per year based on 360 working days (24 hours a day). However, the capacity utilization during the first year of operations is assumed to be 75% i.e. 8,100 tons of maize starch. The proposed unit comprises a total investment of 304.928 million rupees with fixed investment of Rs. 288.074 million and working capital of Rs. 16.853 million. The Net Present Value (NPV) of the project is Rs. 172.138 million with an Internal Rate of Return (IRR) of 27% and a payback period of 4.33 years.
Complete details of these financial can be studied in the corn starch business plan in Pakistan.