Sunflower oil production, Bulgaria

New edible oil extraction plant targeting exports, using local sunflower seeds, with energy produced from by-products.

Total project cost: EUR 62 million; EIB loan: up to EUR 31 million, EFSI-backed.

Oliva AD is a successful Bulgarian-based operator in the sunflower market, employing 416 people, and was the first beneficiary of EIB direct lending under the EU’s EFSI programme in Bulgaria. The company needed financing for the development of a new, greenfield sunflower oil production plant to support its expansion and diversification strategy. The project was intended to support rural economic development in a cohesion region and strengthen a mid-cap company active in the agro-food value chain, so the investment was fully consistent with EFSI objectives.

The new factory is located in Beloslav, Bulgaria, close to agricultural areas of sunflower production and not far from the Black Sea port of Varna, through which most of the production is exported. In the first phase, the new facilities will include grain elevators and silos with a combined storage capacity of 150 000 cubic metres, 22 seed cracking rolls, two screw presses and all related equipment. The project is split into two phases: the crushing capacity will start at 680 metric tonnes per day and will reach 1 500 when fully implemented; and while sunflower seeds will be the primary raw material, the plant will also be able to process soya beans and rapeseeds. The investment includes an on-site wastewater treatment plant and a biomass steam boiler, using by-products as fuel-feedstock, which will provide the factory with all the heating required for production.

Agriculture is an important part of the Bulgarian economy, contributing around 5% to GDP (2016), with oilseeds playing a significant role. The country is the EU’s second largest producer of sunflower seeds and local industry currently processes circa 42% of their agricultural production, with the remainder currently being exported for processing elsewhere. Oliva’s investments in Bulgaria’s agricultural value chain will contribute directly and indirectly to economic development and employment in a less-developed EU region.