Companies

Pan Paper’s Sh500m unit starts operation

panpaper

A folk-lift loads papers to a truck at the Pan African Paper Mills. PHOTO | POOL

Summary

  • The plant has been operating with only one production line since it resumed operations about three years ago and the commissioning of a new machine will see the factory now have two fully operational machines.
  • Pan Paper general manager Palanapian Subramaniam told Business Daily that the single machine has been producing an average of 21,000 tonnes of papers per year.
  • The revamped machine two will produce Kraft liners, printing, writing and photocopying papers as well.

The billionaire Rai family has commissioned a second Sh500 million paper machine at the Webuye-based Pan African Paper Mills that is set to double its current production to 40,000 tonnes per year as it aims at full revival.

The plant has been operating with only one production line since it resumed operations about three years ago and the commissioning of a new machine will see the factory now have two fully operational machines.

Pan Paper general manager Palanapian Subramaniam told Business Daily that the single machine has been producing an average of 21,000 tonnes of papers per year.

Mr Subramaniam says the company has invested more than $5 million in the new machine, whose operationalisation has pushed the plant’s production capacity to between 35,000 to 40,000 tonnes per year.

He said the company is now looking at reviving the third paper machine that has not operated for more than 10 years.

“Commissioning of paper machine two is a milestone. Production of papers is obviously going to go up. The two machines are able to produce more than 35,000 tonnes of papers every year,” Mr Subramaniam said.

The revamped machine two will produce Kraft liners, printing, writing and photocopying papers as well.

While the factory is yet to break even, the general manager is optimistic the future is bright for the once premier paper manufacturer.

Rai Group acquired the Webuye-based paper plant in 2016 for about Sh1 billion and subsequently embarked on revival plans.

The factory had not operated for close to eight years after going under in 2009 due to mismanagement by then management.

Being a chemical processing industry, most of the equipment had been seriously corroded beyond repair at the time new management took over.

The new management is currently decommissioning completely worn-out equipment. Asbestos are also being removed and replaced industrial box profile iron sheets.

The road to full revival of the factory, Mr Palanapian said, has faced numerous challenges particularly the ban on wood logging.

The government imposed a ban on logging in both public and community forests, a decision that dealt the local paper manufacturers a big blow.

The management embarked on manufacturing the papers from waste papers. Currently, the Webuye paper mill produces Test liner, Kraft liner, ordinary and high-performance Fluting Medium that is used in making brown envelopes and white top paste liners.

“The journey to revive the factory has not been easy. We have spent a substantial amount of money to bring it back to where it was before it collapsed,” Mr Subramaniam said.

The factory currently has employed 600 people directly and more than 2,500 indirectly.

The collapse of Webuye based paper mill hit the entire Bungoma county hard.

“Our plan is to have all sections of the factory operational; I have no doubt that we shall actualize that in the fullness of time,” the Pan Paper boss said.

He urged locals or road passersby not to expect heavy smokes billowing from the chimney and pungent smell like it was before because the Rai Group is now using more sustainable paper production by recycling waste papers.

Employees who worked for the Company at the time it collapsed were recalled by the new management under Rai Group.

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