Swiss food processing technology giant, Bühler Group, has opened an ultra-modern Agroindustrial Training & Innovation Center in Abidjan, Ivory Coast.
Christened the Buhler Cocoa Competence Center (CFIA), the facility becomes the first and only cocoa competence centre in Africa.
Speaking exclusively with Cocoa Post editor, Kojo Hayford, the Project Director Mr Désiré N’zi, said the cocoa competence centre has been located in the world’s number one cocoa-growing nation – Ivory Coast – to strategically serve all cocoa-producing countries in the Africa region, especially Ghana, Cameroun and Nigeria.
According to him, the ultra-modern small scale cocoa processing line is dedicated to offering theoretical and practical training and R&D service for recipe development and process optimization.
Africa’s Cocoa Processing Agenda
The Bühler CFIA opens at a time when African cocoa-producing countries, led by Ghana and Ivory Coast, are shifting strategic direction from the exportation of raw cocoa beans to building capacity for local processing and value addition prior to export.
Mr N’zi intimated that the project objective ties in with cocoa-growing Africa’s new agenda.
This competence centre is our contribution to the sustainable development of the cocoa industry in the region because we firmly believe that state of the art technology and the right skills-set will take this industry to the next level and definitely support the increase in the share of locally processed cocoa”, Mr N’zi explained.
He said the Bühler Group subscribes to the principle that “more needs to be kept in the origin countries”, but regretted “the trend” of cocoa wealth retention on the continent is not “fast enough”.
Mr Désiré N’zi elaborated that Bühler Group anchored its strategy for the cocoa competence centre around 3 main SDGs: Goal 4 – Quality education, Goal 8 – decent economic growth, and Goal 17 – Partnerships for the goals.
He acknowledged, “every actor in the sector has a role to play and as a technology provider but also because we had a successful experience in Kenya with what we call the African Milling School, Bühler decided that to invest in setting this Cocoa competence centre to serve the region.
Cornerstone Of Africa’s Cocoa Processing Capacity
The centre boasts of two production halls fitted with cutting-edge cocoa processing equipment, namely the Infrared machine, the winnower, the Alkalizer (CNA) and the tornado roaster.
The rest are grinders, a 3-roll labfiner and the press machine, among other Bühler specialty technologies.
The Head of Buhler CFIA, Mr Kevin Katy, assured the plant is poised to not only support Africa’s cocoa processing capacity but also meet international product quality standards.
“For example, imagine you want to develop a powder with a very specific colour, thanks to the small scale equipment we can support you with an interactive process to develop the right recipe parameters. You can then easily transfer the results into your production line”, Mr Katy highlighted.
The facility according to officials is open to all persons interested in cocoa processing.
However, equipment operators from existing cocoa processing factories will have priority access for their continuous education.
Other beneficiaries of crucial importance are engineering students interested and willing to enter the cocoa industry, cocoa farmer cooperatives and investors planning to venture into cocoa processing and value addition.
Touching on the mission of the centre the project director, Mr Désiré N’zi, asserted their “first and immediate goal is to be a cornerstone of cocoa processing in West Africa.”
He regretted the prevailing COVID-19 pandemic has “turned upside down our course program”, though expressing the hope a program with course details will be shared soon.
Watch a 3-minute tour of the Buhler Cocoa Competence Center
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