A blaze at the Zapopan, Mexico, plant of Jaguar Corp. SA de CV has opened a substantial gap in the Mexican market for polystyrene cups and containers, said Chief Executive Officer Jose Julian Franco.
``The May 4 fire left our plant a total write-off,'' Franco said in a May 11 telephone interview. ``Before that, it was producing 300,000 boxes a month, each of 1,000 polystyrene cups.''
Franco claims the Zapopan plant's output, sold both under its Jaguar brand name and as generics to leading Mexican supermarket chains, accounted for some 40 percent of the Mexican market for disposable containers, including dual-color, coextruded cups.
``That's a substantial gap that the fire has opened up,'' Franco said.
In addition, he said, the company had exported about $10 million of products to the United States annually.
Now Franco faces a race against time to restore the lost production, and to add more. Jaguar had planned to open a plant in Tlaxcala, 70 miles east of Mexico City, later this year.
``Now we're bringing forward the Tlaxcala plant's opening [to June], if possible,'' Franco said.
Even so, Tlaxcala will have a production capacity of only a third of the plant in Zapopan, a suburb of Guadalajara.
``It's clear we have to rebuild Guadalajara as soon as possible,'' Franco said, ``but just how soon that could be is still far from clear, though we do have the backing of our insurers and creditors.''
So far, all the fire-damaged equipment has been moved out and a major cleanup has begun. The next stage will be to redesign the layout.
The aim, Franco added, is to rebuild the plant with cutting-edge technology.
He claimed the blaze was the first in the 22-year history of Jaguar, a wholly Mexican-owned private company that has been making PS cups for 10 of those years.
Its neighboring polyethylene bag manufacturing plant was untouched.
Ra£l Pineda, Zapopan police chief, said the fire began in a finished-product storage area, but rapidly spread to solvents.
All the plant's workers were evacuated without mishap, but the blaze raged for 10 hours, casting a pall of black smoke over Guadalajara.
Firefighters were joined by soldiers from a local army barracks. Seven of those involved in fighting the blaze were treated for smoke inhalation.
The fire-damaged plant had 650 employees out of a total Jaguar work force of 1,700.
``We're a low-profile company, but we have 18 warehouses throughout Mexico and our own transport fleet,'' Franco said.