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Calexico plant would grind agave into cash

January 08, 2002|By AARON CLAVERIE, Staff Writer

CALEXICO — Japanese investors are in town this week requesting millions of dollars in city funds to build a manufacturing plant that would grind agave plants into various products, including paper money.

The investors are scheduled to meet with city officials today at the Bulldog Bar and Grill for lunchtime tacos and appear before the City Council at tonight's Redevelopment Agency meeting.

According to Ralph Morales, the city's interim economic development director, the Japanese investors set up a Los Angeles company called, Cal-X-Pac International in November 2000.

As Cal-X-Pac, the Japanese investors requested on Jan. 3 "all available financial resources through Calexico including to issue city bonds" to buy 131 acres and build the plant.


"We're not sure what exactly they will be asking for. Some of the money they will be requesting is from state funds and we won't know until tonight how much they want from the city," Morales said.

The proposed complex, which includes the plant and an "experimental farm," is penciled in on farmland between Cole Road and Jasper Road, abutting the proposed Calexico International Center on the northwest side of town.

The plant would generate most of its own power by utilizing solar energy panels and the "heat/gas produced by the organic wastes treated in the system."

The investors propose contracting with Imperial Valley farmers to grow the vast acreage of agave that would be needed to feed the plant. Leftover cuttings from agave plants that have been sapped for tequila in Mexico also would be processed at the plant.

"With Cal-X-Pac's calculation, a farmer who plants agave with 20 acres of land, at the end of eight years, will earn a gross $9.8 million, which will be an average of $1.23 million a year," according to the materials provided to the city.

The organic material brought into the plant not suitable for paper processing will be smelted. The byproduct of the smelting will be sold to Japanese firms for a variety of uses, including health drinks and powder for cosmetics.

Some of the specific dollar amounts Cal-X-Pac has listed as "financial needs" include:

· $5.8 million for the purchase of 131 acres

· $9 million for construction of the building

· $10 million for construction of the "powder machinery"

· $6.24 million for "inventory, chemicals and operation."

· $25 million for "machinery (pellets)," the raw materials needed to fuel the plant. Sisal pellets from agave plants would be purchased from Mexican tequila factories, according to information provided by Cal-X-Pac.

In October 2000, the president of Japanese company Eiko Crowd signed a memorandum of understanding with a Japanese man, Shinyu Tawada. Tawada is one of the partners who would eventually incorporate the name Cal-X-Pac in Los Angeles.

The MOU was signed in the presence of City Councilman Gilbert Grijalva, who was then mayor, at City Hall.

As per the MOU, Eiko Crowd agreed to buy the agave-related products that might be produced by Cal-X-Pac.

Eiko Group's Web site offers custard eclairs and ice cream for sale.

>> Staff Writer Aaron Claverie can be reached at 337-3419 or

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