* Gvt says 100,000 jobs to be created
* Focus on rice production aimed at easing imports
(Adds quote, details)
FREETOWN Jan 19 China's Hainan Natural
Rubber Industry Group has signed a deal worth $1.2
billion with Sierra Leone to establish rubber and rice
plantations in the West African state, the African government
said on Thursday.
Sierra Leone's agriculture ministry described the project as
the largest agricultural investment in the country's history,
taking six years to develop and making use of 135,000 hectares
"It has been estimated that the entire investment will
provide over 100,000 jobs for Sierra Leoneans," the government
said in a statement.
The first phase of investment is due to begin in February
with a 30,000 hectare rubber plantation in the 91 Mile area
inland from Freetown and a 25,000 hectare rice project in
The Sierra Leone government will provide the land for an
initial period of 50 years, subject to renewal, and in exchange
have a 10 percent share in the project.
"It's going to be a very welcome intervention," Unisa Sesay,
spokesman for President Ernest Bai Koroma, told Reuters.
Sesay added that while previous agricultural investments in
Sierra Leone had focused on biofuels, this will produce rice.
Hainan was not immediately available for comment.
Despite a climate well suited for agriculture, at present
Sierra Leone's population of 6 million depends on imported rice.
(Reporting by Simon Akam; Editing by David Lewis and Jane