Supporting in Olam’s future growth
With its long-standing role and importance to the company’s global growth, it was almost inevitable that Olam Cameroon’s 25th anniversary should coincide with a bold new business initiative by Olam International.
In January this year, Olam International announced a re-organization which sees the creation of two distinct operating groups – olam food ingredients (ofi) and Olam Global Agri (OGA) – to capitalise on key global consumer food trends and the growth in demand for food, feed and fibre in fast-growing emerging markets. This was a decision aimed at further enhancing the Company’s carefully constructed 2019-2024 Strategic Plan. Within this new structure, Olam Cameroon is well placed to make a major positive contribution to the futures of both ofi and OGA.
Cameroon’s Cocoa – an essential ingredient for success
olam food ingredients (ofi) is focused on offering sustainable, natural, value-added food products and ingredients for the healthy and indulgent products craved by consumers all over the world. It is from Cocoa that Cameroon can make its most significant contribution to ofi’s future success and how ofi will continue to be one of the most important contributors to the country’s exports.
Cameroon’s vibrant and promising cocoa sector was part of what drew Olam here in 1995 and cocoa beans sourcing and export has been the foundation of the company’s local business portfolio. Despite challenges over the past 25 years, Olam has established itself as one of the two key exporters of cocoa beans with a total annual export volume of 65,000 metric tonnes. Olam Cocoa was also the first company in Cameroon to invest in building new ovens to combat the problem of smoky cocoa.
Olam is actively present in all the cocoa producing areas of Cameroon and, in line with its policy, works as close to the “farm gate” as possible and is committed to connecting customers directly to the source of supply. A major initiative in Olam Cameroon’s 25th year will include the launch of Olam’s AtSource platform in the country. AtSource meets multiple social and environmental targets and guarantees traceability by allowing customers worldwide to monitor each stage of a product’s journey.
Olam Cameroon employs more than 400 workers directly in its cocoa business and provides employment indirectly to thousands of others. The Company has a strong focus on its farmer relationships – working closely with them to ensure good agricultural practices, providing transportation support for farm output across difficult terrain, and offering micro loans in times of need.
Feeding Cameroon – playing a critical role in country’s well-being
While the Company’s role cocoa in Cameroon starts with farmers in the “first mile” of the supply chain, Olam has a critical position in the supply chain, particularly import and distribution for wheat flour and rice.
Olam Cameroon’s commitment to the country’s grains requirement saw a 2012 investment of CFA30 billion in a state-of-the-art modern wheat milling facility - with a capacity of 500 metric tonnes per day - on the outskirts of Douala. The highly automated plant was commissioned in March 2015 and produces wheat flour products that caters to market requirements ranging from beignet, standard baguette and premium baguette or toast bread.
The investment has benefited allied industries and service providers and generated both direct and indirect employment. It has also provided Olam with a platform for further community engagement and social welfare activities.
Olam Cameroon’s rice division has become one of the most important contributors to the food security effort of the country. As one of the nation’s top importers and distributors of rice, it has established an extensive network that helps meet the nutrition needs of communities across all 10 regions. Olam ensures value and availability of rice to 22 million Cameroonian consumers by sourcing from its own South East African counterparts and by meeting the demands of the local consumer premium, medium, parboiled and mass segments.
By focusing on quality and taste, its rice brands – Riz Mémé, Riz Bijou, Royal Feast and Lune d’Afrique – have become some of the most recognizable and trusted in the country. Riz Bijou and Riz Mémé Cassé were awarded as the best rice brands in Cameroon in 2016 and 2018 respectively and continue to be a favorite among premium rice brands consumers.
Olam Cameroon’s own stevedoring company (CREST) which manages the logistics of reception and distribution of 150,000 metric tonnes of rice each year also provides jobs to more than 300 Cameroonians directly and indirectly.
A commitment to the future
As it marks its 25th year in Cameroon, Olam continues to seek new ways of contributing to the economy, to employment and to the well-being of the country and its people. Olam Cocoa rolled out a robust sustainability program in Cameroon in 2017. Its main goals are to help improve farmer livelihoods through improved yield per hectare and better post-harvest practices; to ensure the availability of basic social amenities; to build farmer capacity in basic marketing procedures; and to take steps towards the overall improvement of living standards in farming communities.
Today, the company has already created more than 30 farmers’ cooperatives working with over 7,000 farmers directly. As a result, the UTZ Certification – an industry certification standard for sustainable farming – CFA 150 million sustainability premium was paid to over 2,000 farmers in 2019.
Olam is also working to ensure that its sourcing of cocoa does not involve child labour and that cocoa is not coming from protected forests. In collaboration with the Fair Labor Association, Olam is the first company to roll out a professionally managed child labour monitoring and remediation programme in Cameroon.
It also made tremendous progress in the fight against food waste. By taking a commonsense approach, such as using stronger bags, maintaining pallet quality and re-bagging torn bags as soon as possible, the rice team in Cameroon saved more than 2,500 metric tonnes of edible rice between 2012 and 2016. That’s equivalent to 50 million servings of rice, enough to feed every Cameroonian twice in those five years.
The past 25 years have seen the establishment of an extraordinary relationship between Cameroon and Olam, but it will always be a work in progress. Says Mr. Mittal, “Olam Cameroon is a local company, but our footprint is global. We are very optimistic about the future of food and agri-business in Cameroon and Olam is committed to increasing its investment and involvement in this country. We will continue to look for new opportunities both for Olam and for the people of Cameroon".