GRAINS FOR GHANA

Ghana 2018 | AGRICULTURE | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Freda Y. Duplan, Managing Director of Nestlé, on localizing production, boosting quality, and advancing the sector.

Freda Y. Duplan
BIOGRAPHY
Freda Y. Duplan has experience working in the UK, the US, South Africa, and the Philippines, among others. Duplan is a member of a number of business associations, including the Ghana Employers Association, Association of Ghana Industries, and the Swiss Chamber of Commerce. She is also a founding member of Executive Women Network, as well as the chairperson of the executive council. She has 25 years of experience with Nestlé. She graduated in computer science from Slough College, UK.

What have been some of the major highlights of Nestlé's operations in the country?

Nestlé started in the Central and West African Region through Ghana in October 1957. Nestlé Ghana, which is also responsible for Liberia and Sierra Leone, started in a trading capacity initially and evolved into the building of our factory in Tema in 1970 for evaporated milk and MILO®, to infant cereals and milk powder in 2010. Nestlé is the leading nutrition, health, and wellness company, so our customers are at the heart of everything we do. This is why we produce the lowest affordable sizes of different products. About 85% of what we produce in our factory in Tema is for local consumption, while 15% is exported to surrounding countries, such as evaporated milk to Senegal, Ivory Coast, and Cameroon, and MILO® to numerous countries. We also produce infant cereal, such as CERELAC® maize, rice, millet, and wheat, not only for Ghana but also for the rest of Central and West Africa with the exception of Nigeria. Maize and rice are sourced locally, while wheat and millet are imported. We also import less than 20% of what we sell locally. These are primarily items such as NESCAFE® and MAGGI® from Ivory Coast and infant formula, though the rest of our products are manufactured locally.

What are some of the distribution challenges in Ghana?

Today, we can only transport our products to our distributors across the country by road, as the railway network in Ghana is not developed. At times, it can take a transporter two to three days to deliver goods from the factory to Tamale. As safety and quality are non-negotiable priorities for us at Nestlé, we always ensure that the whole value chain in Ghana and across the region adheres to best distribution practices. We believe there is a need to develop an efficient railway network, which will be extremely beneficial to distribution for the manufacturing sector.

What achievements are you most proud of?

I am proud of Nestlé's contribution to the nutrition, health, and wellness of the people of Ghana for 60 years and counting. Today, through our brands, Nestlé's presence is significantly felt throughout each day in the life of a person. Additionally, through the company's Creating Shared Value (CSV) concept, Nestlé is fulfilling its purpose of “Enhancing Quality of life and Contributing to a Healthier Future" by supporting key stakeholders along its value chain in the areas of nutrition, water, and rural development. Through our CSV concept, when we started producing CERELAC® for instance, we had a 55-60% rejection rate of locally sourced maize due to high contamination of aflatoxin. We launched the Nestlé Cereal Plan in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture through a World Bank project called Northern Rural Growth Program (NRGP). We helped build capacity of farmers through extensive training in best agricultural practices. Currently working with the USAID-ADVANCE, through the Nestlé Cereal Plan, we have trained over 55,000 farmers and aggregators on agro-economic, post-harvest protocols, and good storage practices. Today, we have reduced rejection rate from almost 60% to less than 5%.

Where do you see the greatest opportunities in the agribusiness sector in Ghana?

The first thing is moving toward mechanical farming. Subsistence farming makes it difficult for manufacturing, yield forecasting, and quality control. Technology will allow farms to have the scale and mechanized farming that we see in countries like South Africa. We also need to make agri-business attractive to the youth through capacity building and transfer of knowledge. Another aspect is irrigation, as we tend to rely almost completely on natural rain patterns for farming, making the entire process more expensive due to lower production. The last one is the logistics of harvesting and bringing the crops to be processed for sale.