Cargill is to build a state-of-the-art cocoa processing facility in Ghana, West Africa, to produce cocoa liquor, butter and powder.
The facility will be located in the port of Tema and will process 60,000 tonnes initially, with the potential to expand to 120,000 tonnes.
The announcement follows a recent high-level meeting between the president of Ghana, John Kufuor, and Cargill's chairman and chief executive Warren Staley, along with other Ghanaian government officials and senior Cargill executives.
Construction is due to begin during the next few months and the facility should be operational by the end of 2007. In a further commitment to cocoa in the country, Cargill also recently signed a long-term cocoa bean supply agreement with Isaac Osei, chief executive of the Ghana cocoa board.
"As a major cocoa processor, it is important that we continue to invest in order to meet the growing needs of our cocoa customers," said Paul Naar, head of Cargill's food ingredients business in Europe and Africa.
"The quality of Ghanaian cocoa beans is excellent, and we are pleased to invest in a country whose government is committed to cocoa and further developing its processing industry."
Osei said that Cargill's international expertise in the cocoa industry would have many benefits for the Ghanaian economy.
"The new facility will significantly increase Ghana's ability to process cocoa beans locally, at the same time creating an important new outlet for local farmers and employment opportunities for the local community in Tema," he said.
Cargill has been supplying cocoa products around the world for over 40 years. The company has a network of cocoa processing facilities in Western Europe, Côte d'Ivoire, Brazil and the USA.
The group has been active in Africa since 1981 and now has operations in cocoa processing and origination, commodity trading and processing and warehousing. Cargill's began its cocoa operations in Côte d'Ivoire in 1997 and production at its cocoa processing plant near Abidjan began in 2000.
Nearly 70 per cent of the world's cocoa production originates from West Africa with Cote d'Ivoire alone accounting for 40 per cent. An estimated 10 million people in West Africa are supported by over 1.2 million independent family cocoa farms.
Since 2001, Cargill has been running seminars to train its suppliers to go back to their communities to teach their neighbours about sustainable cocoa practices. The seminars include a component on child labour. Cargill also requires that all of its direct suppliers of cocoa beans in West Africa, both licensed buyers and cooperatives, sign a statement acknowledging that they understand Cargill's commitment to the elimination of abusive child labour practices in the cocoa supply chain.