The Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture has just concluded an extensive oversight tour of the Socfin Agricultural Company’s palm fruit project in Sahn Village, Malen Chiefdom, Pujehun District to ascertain the level of work and issues relating to the company’s operation in the country.
At present, having an investment budget of one hundred and twenty-two million dollars (USD 122 000 000), the company is in earnest to finish construction of the largest Milling Machinery in West Africa at the cost of USD 30 000 000 that will start producing approximately 3 000 tons of palm oil in a month, when it would have been completed before 2015.
Giving an overview of the project, the General Manager of Socfin Agricultural Company, Philip Tonks, said that the company is presently operating on a 7 100 hectare of land, being a fifty year lease agreement with landowners of the Malen Chiefdom.
The GM said that since the commencement of the company’s operation, they have employed close to 4 000 personnel many of whom are locals of the chiefdom. He said that for the purpose of constructing the mill, which involves highly technical undertakings, Socfin contracted the service of an Indonesian company to build the ultra-modern Milling Machinery.
However, he noted, as part of their food security drive in the chiefdom, especially when community people have complained about the absence of agricultural activities on their land following their operation, he said that the company has cultivated over 350 acres of bolli land for rice production for inhabitants. He said that during harvest season, committees will be formed, and the company will provide farm implements for such ventures.
He revealed that as part of their corporate social responsibilities, the company has installed solar street lights in Sahn Village, following rehabilitation of some of the roads within the chiefdom.
The Chiefdom Speaker of Malen, Sengbay Robert Moigua, said that since the commencement of Socfin’s operations in the chiefdom, there have evidently been some improvements in the lives of inhabitants, especially women, who are beneficiaries of the company’s employment scheme.
The Youth Leader, Eddie Aruna, maintained that before the commencement of Socfin’s operation in the chiefdom, there was backwardness in the chiefdom, social life was appalling and other amenities were completely absent.
He noted that the arrival of the company has increased people-presence in the once-abandoned village, as they come to seek for employment. And that the company has always assisted the youth promoting in their projects in the chiefdom.
The women’s leader, Aminata Sowa, reiterated that the presence of the company has improved their lives in the area of business activities, which was once very challenging.
However, top management of the company outlined some challenges militating against the successful establishment of the company. Key among which, they said, is the delay in signing the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the government and the company.
The Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture, Hon. Alimamy G. Kargbo, having listened to the company with other members, expressed satisfaction over the level of work done on the mill and the overall activities of the company.
He emphasized that with government’s keen interest in promoting agriculture to enhance food security, his committee is highly committed in ensuring that the President attains the Agenda for Prosperity in the area of food production for the populace.
Therefore, he promised, together with his colleague committee members, they will help prevail on the relevant institutions to finish signing the MoU, especially when he revealed that the signing process has gone through three government ministries.
By Poindexter Sama