Coffee and chocolate demand showed no signs of slowing down as African agricultural company Agriterra announced Wednesday it had expanded its cocoa and farming operations in Sierra Leone.
The company’s wholly-owned subsidiary, Tropical Farms, has acquired a 50-year lease with a 21-year extension option over a cocoa and coffee plantation covering 1,208 hectares, located 40km from Kenema in south-east Sierra Leone.
The plantation, formerly run by Beresfords, will be rehabilitated and redeveloped in order to recommence the production of cocoa, coffee and additional cash crops.
A further 546 hectares, located north of the plantation was also signed on the same terms as the plantation.
The group has already started investing in the rehabilitation and development of the plantation with the installation of a nursery which will be the largest cocoa production facility in Sierra Leone.
The nursery has an irrigation system capable of supporting capacity of up to 500 hectares worth of seedlings and covers a green area of 1.6 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.
Tropical Farms has employed 160 workers from the local community and purchased machinery to begin works.
The company is in talks to secure a further 1,200 hectares to the north of the existing plantation and another 800 hectares to the south.
‘Through [Tropical Farms] we have already established a successful cocoa trading business,’ Agriterra Chief Executive Andrew Groves said.
‘With this acquisition and investment we are now entering the second phase of our growth strategy focussed on developing our own plantations.
‘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.’
Shares rose 2.0% to 3.25p at 8:48 Wednesday.