MAFFS Communications Unit
The earnings prospects for farmers in Lunsar and Masiaka is looking good, thanks to the support that the Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Food Security Prof. Patrick Monty Jones has offered to the Bengal Agro (SL) Ltd farming company. Minister Monty Jones has approved substantive assistance for export promotion through link ups with the Ministry of Trade and Industry and that will be augmented by support to farmers as out-growers who would be trained by the company to grow Turmeric, a crop that grows wild in Sierra Leone but is not consumed or processed here, and Ginger, a well-known food and cash crop in Sierra Leone. It is expected that farmers of these crops would be paid up to US$12,000 per annum by the company for up to 10 tonnes yield per acre. The engagement of this company to generate foreign exchange earnings for farmers in the North of the country would contribute to the Ministry’s commitment to create up to 10,000 jobs for young people along key value chains in agriculture.
In a brief meeting with the Company’s Country Director, Md. Shah Alam at the Minister’s Youyi building offices, Prof. Monty Jones extended warmest and sincere regards to the company for their time and patience in developing such a cash potential from a crop that ordinarily grows wild in Sierra Leone but had hitherto not been consumed in any measure in the country. He also noted that although Ginger is widely used as a beverage drink and for other medicinal purposes, its value as an export crop has been under-developed so far. The Minister declared that such a contribution to the national economy is much welcomed and that the prospects for farmers to earn such a significant sum would enhance their livelihoods and rapidly transform the local communities.
The North, especially Lunsar and Masiaka have suffered some decline in recent times, with the demise of iron ore mining and the growing insignificance of Masiaka as a trading post and vehicle stop point. These areas have been victims of the rapid transformation of the road networks in Sierra Leone as journey times to most places are now cut significantly, most travellers simply move on straight to their destinations and hence take fewer stops for conveniences and rest. However, with the introduction of such a valuable cash crops as ginger and turmeric to the area, it is likely that the economic significance of these areas would be greatly enhanced once again.
Bengal Agro (SL) Limited is a family owned single farm in Port Loko District producing 100% organic and Non-GMO products certified by Japanese Agricultural Standard (JAS) and verified by Non-GMO Project. They produce and process one of the best Turmeric and Ginger in the World. The company prides itself that its crops are produced on virgin lands with no fertilizers or chemical additives. Production is done manually and processing cycle is 100% JAS certified organic, food graded and hygenic. The company started farming in Sierra Leone in 2010 when it secured around 1.700 acres of virgin land in Port Loko. The company started with 70 acres for seedlings development and research, and increased its area under production to 200 acres in 2014. Yield on its 200 acres plot reached 1,600 tonnes of raw and 400 tonnes of dry production. This year, production on 600 acres is expected to reach 3,600 tonnes raw and 1,200 tonnes dry produce. The seedlings are collected from its wild state on local forests and then multiplied in a process that has no genetic modification thus ensuring that the produce is truly organic in origin and form. The company produces one of the best Turmeric in the world with high curcumin and one of the best Ginger with high gingeral.
Pro. Monty Jones has offered Government support to support the company in its growth plans including a link up with the Ministry of Trade & Industry to secure value addition through process growth initiatives that would attract young people in the production and marketing of its products. The proposals and support would be included in a detailed Memorandum of Understanding between the Company and Government once all modalities for such bilateral co-operation are put in place.
The Company which was brought to Sierra Leone by a local indigene from Lunsar, Mohammed Tarawally, a Sierra Leonean residing in the USA is well and truly operational and is planning a massive expansion through supporting and training of local farmers as out growers. The company assures farmers that it will buy all of the farmers’ outputs and provide improved variety seeds to them and accept a one for one return policy while the farmer is entitled to keep the proceeds of the balance of their production. Current market price and production costs considered, each farmer is expected to earn around US$12,000 per acre of crop planted. The crop cycle is 8 months and support with power tools and machinery would be provided by the company to avoid harvest losses.