Mexican tortilla and corn flour producer Grupo Maseca (Gruma) has said it plans to invest US$200m in the next two years, mainly to expand its foreign operations.

This year Gruma plans to invest around $50m, with $150m worth of investment planned for 2004, president Roberto Gonzalez Barrera said.

The money will be spent on, among other things, the construction of a tortilla production plant in China and the acquisition of flourmills for pasta in Italy and corn mills in England.

“The mills in Italy are around $50m. And we are trying to buy two small businesses that do what we do, tortillas of corn, wheat, and corn snacks, in England,” Barrera was quoted by Reuters as saying.

Gruma, which has operations in Mexico, the US, Venezuela and Central America, opened its first European plant in England in 2000.

Barrera said the project in China had been delayed by the outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).