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Commodities in Pictures

Around the world in 8 commodities

Ever wondered about the origins of the everyday items in your cupboards? Take a look at these snapshots from global agri-business Olam International.


From cotton to cocoa, Olam International takes us on a tour of global commodities. Photograph: Olam International











Let’s get cracking in Europe

In the hilly Black Sea region of Turkey farmers grow about 70% of the world’s hazelnuts. A mature tree typically produces 10kg of hazelnuts covered in hairy husks. Once shelled that’s enough to fill about 10 supermarket snack bags (250g). High in manganese and copper which are needed for bone health, hazelnuts are valued for their flavour and texture, particularly in chocolate spreads and bars.

Olam buys hazelnuts from Turkish farmers as well as from local “crackers” (the clue to their job is in the name!), to then process further as whole or chopped nuts for food manufacturers. To help farmers increase productivity, Olam is providing training (pdf) in good agricultural practices as well as working with partners to help improve environmental stewardship and labour practices.

Over the pond to the US

Almonds are an ancient crop originally from the dry, sun-drenched regions of the mediterranean – they were offered as a gift of fertility to Roman newlyweds. Today they also grow in the new worlds of Australia and the US which is the world’s largest producer. You’ll find almonds in body lotions and almond milk as well as raw or roasted snacks.


Almonds are an ancient crop originally from the dry, sun-drenched regions of the Mediterranean. Photograph: Olam International














Olam is 1 of 6,500 almond growers in California, carefully managing water and soil health through drip irrigation to produce high quality almonds, rich in protein, vitamin E and magnesium. The Almond Board of California aids growers and processors in the region by bringing together and advancing the latest in sustainable practices, as well as promoting California almonds to the world.

Take a midnight train to Georgia

Georgia grows 45% of US peanuts. Not actually nuts but legumes, peanuts produce their seed underground unlike most other plants. Also grown in China, Argentina, India, and Africa, they are utilised as a rotational crop with cotton and corn to assist in pest management and enhance soil productivity. As legumes, peanuts can fix their own nitrogen (essential for photosynthesis), which means that some growers can reduce the nitrogen fertiliser requirement for the next year’s corn or cotton crop by as much as 25% depending on the soil type’s ability to hold the nitrogen.


The state of Georgia grows 45% of the peanuts produced in the US. Photograph: Olam International














Quality control is crucial in peanut processing, which can involve cleaning, shelling, blanching, and roasting/grinding depending on requirements. While the biggest domestic market is China, the US is still the largest consumer of processed peanuts – the amount processed by Olam annually could easily serve 7,610,626,992 peanut butter sandwiches!

Wake up and smell the coffee in Colombia

There are 2 species of coffee – arabica and robusta. Arabica grows at higher altitudes and has a broader range of flavours, and is found in specialty coffees, especially if it’s from a single origin.


A career as a coffee cupper in Colombia is well respected. Photograph: Olam International












is the second largest producer of arabica coffee and a career as a coffee cupper is well respected. Trained to discern all of the sensory characteristics of coffee beans, the best of the best in coffee cupping are Q-Graders certified by the Specialty Coffee Association of America. As Olam is a leading supplier of coffee we have expert coffee cuppers in growing countries across the world – from Brazil to Papua New Guinea.

Asia bound – well seasoned travellers peek at pepper in Vietnam

One of the oldest spices to be traded, black pepper is typically grown by smallholder farmers in tropical climates such as south India and Vietnam.


In Ba Ria-Vung Tau province Olam is working with Rainforest Alliance to produce certified black pepper Photograph: Olam International













Before the pepper reaches your pasta the corns must be dried in the sun, then tumble dried at the processing plant, separated, sifted and sterilised. Greater quality control and traceability can be gained by processors working directly with the farmers. Expert field extension workers provide training in safe agricultural practices as well. In Ba Ria-Vung Tau province Olam is working with Rainforest Alliance to produce certified black pepper.

Embrace the heat of the spice trail in India

Chillies are grown all over the world to give food heat, flavour and colour but India is the largest producer. They get their pungency from natural constituents called capcaicinoids measured in Scoville Heat Units (SHU). Jalapeno is about 2,000–5,000 SHU, Teja Indian pepper is approximately 60,000, while some varieties are registered as 16,000,000!


India is the largest producer of chillis. Photograph: Olam International













In Cochin, India, a 52 strong team at Olam works with 900 smallholder chilli farmers helping them implement an Integrated Pest Management programme. Training focuses on natural methods of pest control, such as planting maize as a border crop, using other crop and pheromone traps, and deploying hygienic drying techniques.

Pick up the thread in Africa and marvel at the clouds of cotton flowers in Mozambique

Used in clothing and other materials for over 7,000 years, cotton is grown in 70 countries worldwide. There are over 40 different species of cotton and it is related to hibiscus.


The cotton plant is related to hibiscus. Photograph: Olam International













Organisations such as the Better Cotton Initiative and Cotton Made in Africa work with companies like Olam to help smallholders in Africa produce better yields and higher incomes. Learnings from large scale farms, such as soil management and disease prevention, are also shared.

As one of the largest cotton companies, Olam supplies enough to give everyone in the world 3 pairs of socks every birthday!

From coast to Ivory Coast, our final destination is renowned for cocoa

With its Latin name Theobroma meaning “food of the gods”, cocoa is today grown primarily by smallholder farmers in emerging market countries that form a narrow band around the equator such as Ivory Coast, Ghana, Nigeria, Tanzania, Indonesia and Brazil. Helping these farmers increase their yields and quality is a priority.

As a leading global buyer of cocoa beans, Olam directly supports over 120,000 cocoa farmers through the Olam Livelihood Charter which holistically addresses economic, social and environmental issues. Our efforts are boosted through partnerships with certification bodies such as Rainforest Alliance, Fairtrade, UTZ , customers including The Blommer Chocolate Co., as well as through industry collaborations such as CocoaAction.


The Olam Livelihood Charter holistically addresses economic, social and environmental issues. Photograph: Olam International