Agriterra expands cocoa operations in Sierra Leone
Cocoa trader, Agriterra has expanded its cocoa and farming operations in Sierra Leone.
Through its subsidiary, Tropical Farms (TFL), the group has acquired a 50 year lease, with a 21 year extension option, over a previously producing cocoa and coffee plantation covering 1,208 hectares, located 40km from Kenema in south-east Sierra Leone. The plantation, which was previously run by Beresfords, the international plantation group prior to the civil war, will be rehabilitated and redeveloped in order to recommence the production of cocoa, coffee and additional cash crops. A further 546 hectares, located contiguously to the north of the plantation has also been signed on the same terms as the Plantation.
The group has already invested significantly in rehabilitation and development. A modern nursery is being installed, which will be the largest and most technically advanced current cocoa production facility in Sierra Leone. The nursery has an irrigation system capable of supporting capacity of up to 500 hectares worth of seedlings. The nursery covers a green area of 1.6 hectares and has a total size of 1.7 hectares. It currently contains 250,000 seedlings in the germination process, which once matured, will be used to plant a 200 hectare area that is in the process of being cleared. 56 acres are already under cocoa cultivation.
A total of 160 workers are currently being employed from the local community. Machinery purchased includes two excavators, two backhoes, one D6D bulldozer and three tractors, which are being utilised for road construction within the plantation area and for 20km of feeder roads for the surrounding communities.
Tropical Farms is actively negotiating to secure a further 1,200 hectares, contiguous to the north of the existing plantation and a further 800 hectares to the south. The group hopes to announce the completion of these negotiations in the near term.
Andrew Groves, Agriterra chief executive says, “Through TFL we have already established a successful cocoa trading business. With this acquisition and investment we are now entering the second phase of our growth strategy focussed on developing our own plantations. We have an excellent international and Sierra Leone national team who have the experience and expertise to rapidly scale up our in-country operations with the aim of becoming Sierra Leone’s leading cocoa company. The plantation is in a highly productive and suitable area for cocoa production, and with the investment programme already underway, we are looking forward to the plant out this season and increasing our production.
“Importantly, there is significant growth potential for our Sierra Leonean business which is already contributing at a Group level and complementing our expanding Mozambique beef operations. We have an extremely strong treasury, having received an initial $28 million from the sale of our legacy oil asset, and I look forward to completing additional acquisitions of land and building shareholder value further.”