Agriterra Ltd, the AIM-listed pan-African agricultural company, has provided a further update on the rapid development and expansion of its cocoa farming operations in Sierra Leone through its wholly-owned subsidiary Tropical Farms Ltd (TFL).
Among the developments highlighted by the company were the accelerated development initiatives underway at a 1,200 hectare plantation in southeast Kenema to facilitate commercial large scale cocoa production. The company said that 200 hectares had been cleared to date, and it is its intention to clear 1,200 hectares by the fourth quarter of 2013 and complete planting across the entire plantation by the fourth quarter of 2014.
TFL has also acquired a further 400 hectares in line with its expansion strategy, with land clearing due to begin in 2014 ahead of planting cocoa and, potentially, coffee in 2015.
The company is in “advanced negotiations” to acquire a further 1,600 hectares contiguous to the northeast of the current plantation, and discussions are underway to acquire another 1,550 hectares adjacent to and south of the plantation for further increase of production in the medium term.
The company said it is also considering a supplementary cocoa nursery, construction of which is to be completed by the first quarter of 2014, enabling the cultivation of up to 1 million seedlings for planting across 1,000 hectares in 2014. TFL has also developed local infrastructure to support plantation growth, including improved roads to Kenema, and has constructed four management houses.
Andrew Groves, Agriterra’s Chief Executive, said: “I am delighted to report on the continued growth and development of TFL’s farming operations. The expansion of the plantation underpins TFL’s efforts to become a leading agricultural producer, in addition to its established cocoa trading business. The forward pricing environment for cocoa is positive, with the ICO forecasting that demand is expected to exceed production by 45,000 tonnes in the season to September 2013.
“We are therefore confident that our expansion into cocoa will benefit greatly from the future demand fundamentals, and with defined development plans to maximise the value of our increasing land holding, I am confident that we are well set to generate significant revenues for the Group and complement our revenue being generated from our beef business and grain processing operations.”