SIERRA LEONE – Capitol Foods, one of Sierra Leone’s leading agribusiness company, has launched a cocoa processing plant with an annual production capacity of 4,000 metric tons of cocoa paste.

The unit, first of its kind in the country, is eyeing the export market to supply the chocolate maker’s abroad with the semi-processed product.

According to reports by The Sierra Leone Telegram, the plant will obtain the raw material from a network of 2,831 cocoa producers.

With support from the Ministry of Agriculture through the Sierra Leone Agribusiness Development Fund, SLADF, Capitol has trained the farmers on good farming practices, integrated pest management and pest management to ensure the cocoa supplied is of good quality.

Sierra Leone harvests an average of 15,000 tonnes of cocoa per year. The country is the 6th African producer of cocoa after Ivory Coast, Ghana, Nigeria, Cameroon and Uganda, according to the International Cocoa Organization data (ICCO).

Just like other cocoa producing countries in the region, Sierra Leone has been only exporting cocoa beans.

Ivory Coast, the leading producer in the world exports 72% of cocoa as whole beans, while in Ghana, the second largest producer, the figure is 68%.

The minimal processing done is largely concentrated in goods at the lower end of the value chain i.e., for cocoa paste, butter and powder, done by a small number of players.

Capitol Foods’ parent company Capitol Group has been instrumental in making the cacao sector in Sierra Leone more sustainable in the past decade and is now listed as one of the top 3 cocoa exporters in the country.

With the launch of the processing unit, the company is seeking to add more value to the green gold in a bid to fetch higher prices in the market.

The new venture has availed an opportunity for Capitol Foods to further diversified its operations from solely focusing on beverage manufacturing.

The company produces bottled water and fruit juices under the famous brand name Sierra, using locally grown fruits.

Recently, it received US$1 million debt financing from two Dutch impact investors, Cordaid Investment Management and Triodos-Hivos Fund.

The funding is aimed to finance Capitol’s expansion of fruit processing capacity to meet the growing demand, by facilitating the purchase and installation of 3-tonnes-per-hour fruit processing plant.

The debt facility will also enable the company to provide greater market access for thousands of fruit farmers in Sierra Leone by sourcing more than 5,000 tons of fruit annually, impacting around 10,000 farmers.

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