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story.lead_photo.caption The exterior of Tyson Foods Inc. headquarters in Springdale. ( NWA Democrat-Gazette / Anthony Reyes)

Officials with Tyson Foods and the Republic of Kazakhstan signed a preliminary agreement on Monday to explore the development of a modern beef processing plant in the largest landlocked country in the world.

Tyson Fresh Meats, a pork and beef subsidiary, said the agreement could lead to the construction of a beef plant with a capacity of 2,000 head per day and improve Kazakhstan's economy by more than $1 billion. It is part of the country's broader efforts to expand and develop its agriculture sector, beginning with meat production, a key export growth area.

Before signing the deal, officials with Tyson traveled to the Central Asian country, and representatives with the country visited Tyson's headquarters in Springdale and toured one of Tyson's major beef facilities.

Talks became public earlier this year after the Financial Times reported on a potential deal as a way to dodge China's steep tariffs on imported U.S. goods. Negotiations began as part of the Kazakh government's efforts to sell itself as an agricultural powerhouse on China's border, three sources familiar with the matter told the Times.

Prime Minister Askar Mamin of Kazakhstan and Yerkin Tatishev of Kusto Group, a private holding company based in Singapore, flew to Northwest Arkansas for the signing ceremony at Tyson's headquarters on Monday. Tyson Foods President and Chief Executive Officer Noel White signed on behalf of the company.

"We are delighted to welcome Tyson Foods to Kazakhstan," Mamin said in prepared remarks. "Tyson is a world-class company with the expertise necessary to help Kazakhstan jump-start the transformation of our agro-protein capabilities and help us create an ecosystem that will increase our beef herd size and establish conditions to support thousands of new high-quality jobs in the country. We look forward to a long and mutually beneficial collaboration."

Also in attendance was Arkansas Lt. Governor Tim Griffin, Kazakhstan Ambassador to the U.S. Erzhan Kazykhaova and Tyson Chairman John Tyson.

"We're pleased to execute an agreement with the Government of Kazakhstan and partner with Kusto," Steve Stouffer, Tyson Fresh Meats group president, said in prepared remarks. "This opportunity supports one of our growth strategies to expand Tyson's global business, and we look forward to bringing our expertise and capabilities to the country of Kazakhstan."

Tyson Fresh Meats has 18 beef and pork processing plants across the U.S. The company's beef business made $15.8 billion in sales this fiscal year, up 2% from last year.

According to Worldbank, Kazakhstan links the large markets of China and South Asia to Russia and Western Europe by road, rail and a port on the Caspian Sea. The former Soviet Union republic has a land mass equal to Western Europe, but with only about 18 million residents, one of the lowest population densities.

Business on 12/10/2019

Print Headline: Tyson, Kazakhs aiming for plant

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