Olam Int’l is taking big steps to support Cote d'Ivoire's cocoa industry.

The leading agri-business and cocoa processor recently opened a new Olam Cocoa Processing facility in San Pedro, during an inauguration event facilitated by President Alassane Outtara.

The facility's plant and processing operations are among the most advanced cocoa facilities in Africa, with a grind capacity of 75,000 metric tonnes per year.

The new $75-million plant will provide employment for 450 people locally, including highly skilled employment such as engineers, R&D technicians, finance and administration managers, on-site nurses, and HR and IT professionals.

The plant will emphasize a focus on both quality and the environment, using only cocoa beans sourced through Olam's farmer networks throughout the country. Through the sustainable and traceable supply chain, the facility will produce whole bean and nib-roasted liquor, cocoa butter and cocoa cake.

This plant, commissioned in 2014, will be Olam's second major industrial processing investment in Cote d'Ivoire. Since its first investment, Olam has already created 6,000 jobs in Cote d'Ivoire.

Sunny Verghese, co-founder, group managing director and ceo of Olam, celebrated  President Ouattara's presence at the inauguration ceremony.

"This is a special occasion as we celebrate 20 years of Olam's presence in Cote d’Ivoire, while also celebrating the company's Silver Jubilee," he says.  "This occasion of OCP's inauguration is symbolic of everything that Olam and Cote d'Ivoire have achieved together over the years. We are firmly committed to the country and share its ambition to become an emerging economy by 2020."

To reiterate the country's importance to the cocoa industry, Gerard Manley, managing director and global head cocoa, says, "The inauguration today of one of the world's most advanced cocoa plants is testament to the importance the cocoa industry attaches to Cote d'Ivoire, the largest producer of cocoa globally."

The complex will also allow Olam to provide its international customers with sustainable beans and products, he says.

"We are proud that Olam Cocoa's most ambitious greenfield project is now a reality and I would like to thank the government and most especially our suppliers — the farmers and their communities, with whom we share the value of the cocoa bean," Manley adds.

The day before OCP's inauguration, First Lady Dominique Ouattara also attended an Olam inauguration.

She attended the official opening of a primary school complex near Olam's processing plant, a project jointly financed by Olam and cocoa processor The Blommer Chocolate Co.

The Dominique Ouattara School Complex will provide a much-needed education facility with the potential to teach 300 students. It is also equipped with a canteen, a nurses' station and a library.

Olam also announced a partnership with the Water and Forest Ministry that will reforest five hectares in recognition of the school.

Manley attributes the success of Olam's business and the future of the country to thriving rural communities.

"At Olam we are committed to strengthening communities by not only improving employment and livelihoods, but also by working together to enhance education, health and equality," he says, "The Dominique Outtara School Complex is one example of this, and we look forward to continuing to work with the local community and the government of Cote d'Ivoire for many years to come."

Kip Walk, corporate director of cocoa sustainability at Blommer, also adds that the company believes in a responsibility to work with communities around the world to build sustainable paths out of poverty.

 "Education is essential to this, as is the provision of quality healthcare and nutritious food," he says. "The Dominique Outtara School will address these factors and is a demonstration of our continued commitment to the people of Cote d'Ivoire."