AMSTERDAM, Feb 8 (Reuters) - Oils producer Loders Croklaan has startedconstruction of what is expected to be Europe's largest palm refinery atthe port of Rotterdam, the firm and port officials said on Tuesday.The plant will process 2,500 to 3,000 tonnes of crude palm oil a day andbecome operational in the last quarter of this year, Loders Croklaan saidon its website.
The one-million-tonne facility aims to link the plantations of Malaysianpalm oil group IOI Corp , which owns Loders Croklaan, with the company'sbusiness in Europe.
IOI acquired the Dutch-based Loders Croklaan from Anglo/Dutch food groupUnilever in 2002.
Loders has oils plants in the Netherlands, the United States, Canada andEgypt.
Palm oil refiners owned by Malaysian plantations have been expanding intothe Netherlands in recent years in pursuit of a slice of Europe's hugeoils market, based in Rotterdam.
Last year Kuok Oils and Grains announced plans to invest 25 million eurosin building a 300,000-tonne palm oil refinery near Rotterdam's port.
In 2001 Golden Hope bought Unilever's 150,000-tonne capacity plant there.
The port, Europe's busiest, is the continent's main centre for shipment,storage and processing of vegetable oils.
The European Union imports a third of its vegetable oil via Rotterdam.
The port has four oils tank storage companies, with a total capacity ofover 800,000 cubic metres.
The two new refineries will bring the total number of palm oil plants atRotterdam to four with a total annual capacity of two million tonnes.