Lion Mountains has a lease on 500ha of prime farmland at Senehun in Kamajei Chiefdom, and agreements in principle for an additional 14,000ha with other local chiefdoms in Bo District. Rollout of these land areas will begin in 2018, with the aim of developing significant domestic production to replace imported rice.
Lion Mountains established a rice mill in Bo in December 2014, and is now the largest rice milling operation in Sierra Leone. A new 10t mill was installed in May 2017, and milling operations are overseen by Rob Shaw, General Manager of the Milling Division.
The mill is currently supplied mainly by our outgrower network, comprising c3,000 smallholder farmers in the surrounding area.
With Sierra Leone heavily reliant on imports of rice, the market is highly attractive, and Lion Mountains will sell domestically for the immediate future. When the country has sufficient production for its own needs, we will begin to export, as Sierra Leone used to do.
In addition to the commercial mill, Lion Mountains also operates a community mill at our site in Bo, offering low-cost milling of small volumes of rice to the local community.
Lion Mountains sells both wholesale and retail in Bo District, Moyamba District and elsewhere around the country. Developing a strong national brand is a priority: we are setting out to feed Sierra Leone, and to free the country from the necessity of importing its staple food.
Lion Mountains has introduced two significant innovations to the way rice is sold in Sierra Leone. Firstly, we sell small packs of rice sized as "5 cups", the way that local people usually buy rice in the market, a much more meaningful measure than "1.5kgs". We offer a range of local rice varieties, including parboiled and rough rice, both in red and white rice.
The second main innovation is our network of kiosks (and small shops) in Bo District and Moyamba District. These allow us to sell in areas not currently served by local markets. Rice is the anchor product at our kiosks, but we are expanding our product offering, including Bennimix baby food and solar lights, along with mobile phone charging in select outlets.
Lion Mountains maintains its own fleet of DAF Leyland 10t trucks, with a high-clearance to allow ready navigation of rural roads. This give us the capacity to maintain our retail outlet network and to supply wholesale customers around the country.
The Lion Mountains Outgrower Programme was launched in November 2014, and we now buy rice and other produce from c3,000 local farmers in Bo District and beyond. In addition to providing this market linkage to our Outgrowers, we also supply training and inputs in order to assist them in increasing their yields and diversifying their output.