Agriterra joins rush into West African palm oil

Dec 01, 2011 12:00 AM

Agriterra added to the $ 6 bn investment wave heading into West Africa palm oil by acquiring 45,000 hectares of plantation land in Sierra Leone, amid a rash of corporate activity.
The London-listed farming minnow joined Asian giants such as Sime Darby and Wilmar International in backing the potential for palm oil output in West Africa which, while boasting the necessary warm and wet equatorial climate, has remained a minority producer.

Indonesia and Malaysia between them account for more than 85 % of world output.
The southern area of Sierra Leone where Agriterra has purchased its plantation, through the acquisition of Shawford Investments, "receives one the highest levels of rainfall in [the country], which in itself, receives some of the highest rainfall globally", the company said.

Big Italian investor
The takeover is the company's second in Sierra Leone this year, after it in July acquired cocoa group Tropical Farms, for which Agriterra unveiled a deferred payment of 8.3 mm new shares.
And Agriterra also announced the injection of a total of $ 15 mm from Gibraltar-registered Beyond Africa Fund, which will become the group's biggest shareholder, and CIR Group, the listed Italian investment company run by the De Benedetti dynasty.

CIR's larger investments include control of Gruppo Editoriale L'Espresso, the publisher of newspaper La Repubblica, Italian electricity and gas group Sorgenia and car parts maker Sogefi. Agriterra will use the cash to accelerate growth at its Mozambique-based cattle ranching operations, and to "aggressively expand" the cocoa business from trading into plantations.
"We see huge potential in the cocoa market and have assembled a team capable of delivering on our strategy of becoming a major regional producer," Andrew Groves, Agriterra director, said.

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