Bengal Agro (SL) Limited has announced its intention to invest a whooping sum of US$39 million (thirty-nine million US Dollars) in the next four years in the country’s agricultural sector.
Owned by a Bangladeshi National, the company has shown great interest in investing in the production of 100 percent organic crops, processing (value addition) and marketing ginger, turmeric, rice, maize, groundnut, sesame, caster and rubber at Lunsar, Northern Sierra Leone. Also, the company intends to install its own processing factory for the food crops and processing plants for the rubber plantations in Sierra Leone.
Even though Sierra Leone has been producing lots of rubber, yet there is no rubber processing plant in the country. Apart from the US$ 39 million, Bengal Agro Company intends making an additional US$ 20 million “on the first rubber processing plant in West Africa”.
The Country Director, Shah Alam said, “this will create employment for Sierra Leoneans, as the company intends to employ some six thousand people by the end of 2014. It will earn and conserve much needed foreign exchange for the country, which can be used for other national development programs. This is in line with government’s food security drive,” he maintained.
Within three years, he said, Bengal Agro Limited hopes to cultivate about 4,048 hectares of land, and according to Mr. Alam, “this is expected to increase in the coming years” and assured that it also intends to introduce new products and value added services in the agriculture sector.
Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Food Security, Dr. Sam Sesay on Thursday 5th July 2012 paid a one-day working visit to the Bengal project site to get first-hand knowledge about the company’s operation.
He lauded the project noting, “This will bring lot of laurels in the agriculture sector”. He appreciated the initiatives of Bengal Agro in the agriculture sector and also appreciated the fact that the company will help other farmers to learn new technologies in the agriculture sector.
This year, Bengal Agro has succeeded in piloting different crops to see the yield and suitability of soil and the environment. The pilot products include: Turmeric, Aroma Rice, Jute Fibre, Castor, Nitrogen Tree, Sugar Cane, Ground nut, and different vegetables in its Lunsar Project site.
The Country Director said that because the land in Sierra Leone has heavy shortage of Nitrogen, the company has decided to use the Nitrogen Tree leaf for the first time ever in the country to decrease the shortage for their land. And that since Bengal Agro has started to produce 100% organic crops; they have chosen not to go for the very expensive chemical nitrogen.
It was noted that the projected acreage for the cultivation and processing of these crops is 2,300 hectares of land, and this area will be increased if possible as the need arises and with availability of resources.
The Lunsar Land area is expected to be efficiently used by introducing modern and improved farm irrigation practices to ensure that the crops and land has water throughout the year to keep the soil moist for nutrients uptake by plants cultivated. ‘
Shah Alam confirmed to this press that through the above system, cropping cycle will be exploited in order to significantly increase production to meet the growing market demand.
With the international markets been accessed through export trade by the end of the second year of operations, he said that Bengal Agro will be able to trade and earn foreign exchange for Sierra Leone, thereby assisting the country’s currency value which will be used for developmental programs.
The company has also confirmed that research facilities will also be created to improve on the performance of the targeted crops and soil conditions to maximize crop yields and maintain soil performance for continuous increase production.
However, it was revealed that Bengal Agro came about as a mother company, Lalmai Group in Bangladesh with 24 years of experience in agribusiness, which decided to have a branch in Africa. The management of the company visited different African countries and realized that Sierra Leone is the most ideal environment favourable for cost effectively producing the crops under consideration, processed through value addition and market both inside and out of Sierra Leone. This came as a result of the Bangladeshi Peacekeeping Mission which came to Sierra Leone till 2005, and when they went back home after the UNAMSIL ended its mission in the country.
By Poindexter Sama