Global speciality oils and fats supplier Bunge Loders Croklaan (BLC) has opened a shea butter processing facility in Ghana, the company announced on 8 September.

The opening of the processing plant in Tema is part of the company’s ‘Where Life Grows’ campaign to protect and advance the shea supply chain in West Africa.

“Our latest investment in Ghana plays a critical role in strengthening BLC’s global infrastructure for processing and supplying high-quality shea products to our customers around the word, while also bolstering the entire ecosystem of regional crushers and local shea collectors in the West African region,” BLC President Aaron Buettner said.

“The facility allows us to meaningfully support and empower the local shea communities through the transfer of knowledge of value adding processes and by investing in local skills development. We are proud to join forces with local communities to help build and advance the African shea industry together.”

In operation since 2019, the facility is BLC’s first shea processing plant in Africa and the largest of its kind on the continent, according to the company.

A fully automated solvent fractionation plant, the facility processes raw shea butter made from locally collected and crushed shea nuts into two major products – shea olein and shea stearin.

Shea stearin is further processed in BLC’s facilities in the Netherlands, Malaysia, Canada and the USA, to produce ingredients for food and non-food applications. For example, cocoa butter equivalents (CBEs) are used in chocolate confectionery.

The ‘Where Life Grows campaign’ is part of the company’s shea sustainability programme which was set up three years ago to empower women collecting shea, create socio-economic value in their communities, and conserve and regenerate the shea landscape in the region.

In Africa, 16M women living in rural communities and their families depend on the shea industry to financially support their households.

Shea, also known as the ‘tree of life’ by locals, has become a vital ingredient in both food and non-food products, driving up demand for shea butter.

BLC is part of the global agribusiness giant Bunge and its products are used in a range of applications from bakery and confectionery to culinary and infant nutrition.