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, according to a government statement issued on Thursday.

Sierra Leone's agriculture ministry described the project, which is due to take six years to develop and make use of 135,000 hectares of land, as the largest agricultural investment in the country's history.

The first phase of investment is due to begin in February with a 30,000 hectare rubber plantation and 25,000 hectare rice project in Tonkolili, the statement said.

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