PARIS, Feb 7 (Reuters) - French grain co-operative group Axereal is to build a malt processing factory in Ethiopia and expand capacity at its export hub in Belgium as it seeks to tap into rising demand for beer in emerging market countries.
Axereal is one of France's biggest grain handlers and its Boortmalt division is also one of the world's largest malt makers, behind fellow French groups Soufflet and Vivescia.
In Ethiopia, Boortmalt will develop a malt processing site with an annual capacity of 60,000 tonnes, with the aim of starting production by the end of 2018, Axereal said on Tuesday.
"The market for beer is growing in emerging countries, and in Africa in particular," it said in a statement.
"Axereal Group will leverage its expertise by working alongside its brewing customers to develop local barley and malt production in these countries," it added.
Boortmalt will also add a fourth production facility at the Belgian port of Antwerp, which will make its hub there the world's largest malt production site with 470,000 tonnes in annual capacity, it said.
Financial details of the investments were not disclosed.
Rising worldwide consumption of beer, in which grain-based malt is a key ingredient, has led Boortmalt's 10 existing malt factories in Europe to run at full capacity of 1.1 million tonnes, Axereal said.
The planned investments will bring its total annual malt capacity to 1.3 million tonnes, the company added. (Reporting by Gus Trompiz; Editing by Sudip Kar-Gupta and David Evans)