TBY talks to Amit Agrawal, Country Manager of Olam Ghana, on recent developments, agribusiness, and consumer trends.

How have operations evolved in the last few years?

Olam continues to do well. We have been able to double our capacity in flour and biscuits recently and have added a cocoa processing facility a year back. Our current focus is expanding in the food space, and our projects are in staples, such as rice and flour, and packaged foods which is part of Nutrifoods Ghana Limited. We are currently the market leader in biscuits in Ghana and our tomato line is the top-selling brand. We are now looking into new categories such as noodles, pasta, juices, yogurt drinks, and snack foods. These products will be a new entry in Ghana market, though we already participate in these categories in Nigeria. Most of these will happen through investment in local manufacturing.

A big problem, particularly in Ghana's agribusiness, is the lack of data. What role do you expect technology to play in Ghana in the future?

Technology is the backbone of our growth and is the only reason we are able to continue to scale up quikly. One example is Olam Information System which is the technological platform that we use in our sustainability programs with our partners. We have our IT processes integrated with mobile phone technology. This is important because most of our users on the farming side may not have electricity. These systems are used extensively both for our supply chain partners and for internal customer management.

How will the One District, One Factory initiative affect the agribusiness sector and Olam in particular?

We welcome the drive from the government wants to distribute growth to all districts and regions. We hope many entrepreneurs will take advantage of that and set up units related to agriculture or other related industries in the interior of the country. That should help both the coordination and the aggregation of agricultural produce from various parts of Ghana. Equally Olam sees opportunity for government to invest in infrastructure in the farming communities to help them get market access.

The agribusiness in Ghana has moved to a progressive consolidation, with five major players. How do you plan to maintain your competitive edge?

In the last few years, we have acquired several companies in Ghana. We recently acquired a company in cocoa processing in 2015, and we continue to be relatively ambitious with our Ghana operations and will look for opportunities in the consolidation phase.

What are your expectations for 2018?

We expect a robust growth between 6 and 8% at least. We also expect the government to stabilize the currency. It is a promising outlook. Our budget planning for next year is currently based on an assumption of robust growth. We also see an ongoing evolution in the foods space with increasing incomes and improving lifestyles. Consumption is moving from the traditional foods such as corn, cassava, sorghum, and millet to convenience processed foods. This continues to present an opportunity for companies such as ours to tap the changing nature of demand.