Bio’s Food Security Package From China


President Rtd. Brig. Julius Maada Bio and a high powered delegation of top government officials that included the Chief Minister, Ministers of Finance; Planning and Economic Development, Agriculture, among other technocrats and experts arrived home at the weekend with broad smiles from the People’s Republic of China.

The President and his delegation returned home after attending the 4th Investing in Africa Forum held in Changsa, Hunan Province. The mark of high esteem that China regards Sierra Leone with was displayed by the fact that President Bio was one of the two invited African leaders to address the summit.

The President described the event as a unique platform for policy dialogue and knowledge exchange, mobilizing of investment and facilitating trade. After outlining the huge unexplored investment potential that lies within the African continent, he zoomed in on Sierra Leone and her abundant economic development potential.

In seeking investment from the hundreds of delegates that attended the summit, President Bio told the summit that Sierra Leone harbours huge potential for investment. Politically, he said, the country is democratic, peaceful and stable, adding that economically, it has vast arable lands for agricultural purposes and rich in minerals that include untapped oil and gas with good weather; robust economic and investment policies; a well defined regulatory and legal framework for doing business; and the political will that is desirous of promoting private sector investment in a safe and secure environment.

President Bio told the summit at large that his government is interested in investments in the areas of infrastructure, agriculture, marine resources and tourism in their bid to diversify the economy.

The President and delegation on Thursday 6th September were hosted by the China National Rice Research and Development Center in Mapoling, Furong district in Changsa, Hunan Province.

Knowing that China is elevating 10 million of its citizens every year out of poverty, and President Bio very eager to lift his 7.1 million compatriots out of poverty, starting with food security, he bluntly told the head of the research station, 90-year-old Professor Yuan Longping: “I want to be able to provide an opportunity to feed the nation.”

The President further asked Prof. Yuan about the possibility of Sierra Leonean students going to the station to learn improved rice breeding technologies and techniques. He even offered Prof. Yuan an invitation to Sierra Leone and see how he can help the country move towards food security. The President also told the Professor that for now, Sierra Leone spends about US$200 million annually on importation of rice, and that he wants to within the next five years reduce that amount by growing the staple crop here.

Prof. Yuan, who said it would be a pleasure for him to help Sierra Leone achieve food security, promised President Bio that he would send a team to Sierra Leone on a fact-finding mission.

Explaining the background of the research station, he told the President and delegation that the facility was established in 1995 as first of its kind globally. Narrating the station’s success, Prof. Yuan told President Bio that researchers have successively cultivated hybrid species of rice that yield from 10 tons per hectare to this year’s cultivation which, he said, yielded an astonishing 18 tons per hectare.

As a first step towards implementing a large-scale rice growing scheme in the country in his dream to reduce the importation of rice over the next five years, President Bio and delegation held preliminary talks with the Hunan International Group.

It must be good news for Sierra Leoneans that the President succeeded in getting an agreement from the Group to cultivate 35, 000 hectares of rice in Sierra Leone in phases. Phase one will target 5, 000 hectares (one hectare = 10, 000 square meters = 2.4 acres).