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Kuraray Co., a manufacturer of synthetic fiber and chemicals, said Wednesday it will invest 8.5 billion yen to boost production in Belgium of EVOH resin, a plastic used to make containers for food products such as mayonnaise and ketchup.

The company said it has begun construction work to increase annual output at its Eval Europe N.V. plant in Antwerp to 24,000 tons from the current 12,000 tons. Kuraray distributes the resin under the Eval trademark.

Construction is expected to be completed during the third quarter of 2004. When complete, Kuraray’s global production of Eval resin should reach 57,000 tons a year.

In 1972, Kuraray became the world’s first company to commercially produce the resin, according to the firm.

Demand for the product, which is particularly effective in making airtight products, has been growing, especially in Japan, the United States and Europe.

It is also used as a coating for nonfood goods, such as gasoline tanks in automobiles, the company said.

Kuraray estimates global demand for EVOH resin will grow to 110,000 tons in fiscal 2007 from 64,000 tons in fiscal 2002. Kuraray currently controls 70 percent of the resin’s global market.

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