(Updates with Nigeria report of Ebola in seventh
By Silas Gbandia
July 25 (Bloomberg) – The deadliest outbreak of Ebola on
record is forcing farmers and their families to flee cocoa, rice
and peanut plantations in northeastern Sierra Leone, where
agriculture makes up more than half of the nation’s economy.
Output of the chocolate-making ingredient will drop this
year and peanuts and rice, a staple, will be left unharvested,
Edmond Saidu, district agriculture officer in Kailahun District,
said in an interview last week. The area borders Guinea, where
the disease was first reported in March, and Liberia, which has
confirmed cases of the hemorrhagic fever that has no cure or
“Ebola has left with us with a high number of orphans who
cannot take care of themselves and family plantations,” Brima
Kendor, a plantation owner and spokesman for the local chief in
Kissi Tongi, Kailahun district, said in an interview. “This is
the time to rehabilitate the cocoa farms but we can’t do that
Abandoned farms threaten to curb economic growth in a
country struggling to rebuild after a 10-year civil war that
ended in 2002 and left the nation’s infrastructure in ruins.
Agriculture makes up about 57 percent of the $4.9 billion
economy, according 2011 World Bank data, the most recent figures
available. The virus will probably spread for four more months
in West Africa, where more than 600 people have died since the
fever was reported in March in Guinea, according to the World
Before the outbreak, the central bank had cut borrowing
costs in half since 2012, inflation had slowed to below 10
percent and the economy was poised to expand 14 percent this
year. Sierra Leone started exporting iron ore, the raw material
for steel, in 2011.
Ritual burial practices, poor hygiene and lack of adequate
medical care has made controlling the spread of the disease
difficult in the border region of dense forest between Guinea,
Sierra Leone and Liberia, according to WHO. Sierra Leone has
recorded 146 deaths from Ebola and 435 confirmed cases, the
Ministry of Health said today in an e-mailed statement.
More than 600 people have died in Guinea, Sierra Leone and
Liberia, according to the WHO. Nigeria said today a Liberian man
died of the virus, the first case in Africa’s largest economy.
Farmers harvest cocoa and coffee in the districts of
Kailahun, Kenema and Kono. Kailahun, where most of the Ebola
cases have been confirmed, is the largest producer of cocoa in
Sierra Leone and agriculture is the major economic activity.
Total production of cocoa will be about 10,000 metric tons
in the 12 months that end in September, according to the The
International Cocoa Organization. Ivory Coast, the largest
producer in the world, has output of 1.6 million tons.
“This is the plowing season especially for swamp rice
cultivation, and this is also the time for the first harvesting
of cocoa in the rains,” Saidu, the agriculture officer in
Kailahun, said. “But much is not happening.”
Some international companies have refused to visit the area
to buy the seed, Henry Yamba Kamara, managing director of the
state-owned producer and buyer Sierra Leone Produce Marketing
Company, said by phone.
“The buyers have refused to go in,” Kamara said. “The
outcome will be either the cocoa will rot or nobody will be
there to buy, which will lead to a drop in exports.”
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--With assistance from Morgane Lapeyre in London.
To contact the reporter on this story:
Silas Gbandia in Freetown at +232-33-500332 or
To contact the editors responsible for this story:
Antony Sguazzin at +27-11-286-1934 or
Andres R. Martinez, Sarah McGregor