Europe’s newest canmaking plant opens, but is preparing for lockdown

The threat of coronavirus has prompted the owners of Europe’s newest beverage can plant to take steps to shutter the facility before it even begins full operations.

The Benepack Belgium plant at Genk in Belgium started production earlier this year. It has yet to start making commercial cans and is in the process of having customers certify its products.

While the site is still operating, senior sources at CPMC, one of the Chinese joint-venture partners behind the project, said management is making arrangements to close the facility temporarily if the spread of coronavirus accelerates in Belgium or if the local government puts the Flanders region where it is located on lockdown.

Plans for an opening ceremony once the plant was fully operational have also been put on hold.

Belgium had recorded almost 1,800 cases of the disease and 21 deaths by 21 March.

The plant is the first to be constructed in Europe by a Chinese joint-venture, and one of four independent beverage can manufacturers in the region. It was created last year between CPMC Holdings (part of the Cofco food group) and Jiaxing Haoneng to set up a single D&I production line with an initial capacity of one billion aluminium cans per year.

Total investment in the joint-venture, which will also be Belgium’s first two-piece beverage can plant to operate in the country since the early 1990s, is about RMB400 million (US$59.3m) of which CPMC and Jiaxing Haoneng hold 51 per cent and 49 per cent respectively.