Phatisa merger to drive sustainable production of organic palm oil in Sierra Leone

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A landmark merger of the African palm oil producers, Goldtree and Natural Habitats Europe Africa, has been successfully completed. The businesses in Sierra Leone are in the process of securing full organic and Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) certification.

With the aligned trading relationship with Natural Habitats Europe-Africa, the merged business will secure routes to markets for its premium product as it moves towards full certification.

Prior to the transaction, Goldtree was jointly owned by African private equity fund manager Phatisa – through its African Agriculture Fund (AAF) ‒ and Finnfund, a Finnish development finance institution.

Natural Habitats Europe Africa, is a Dutch company committed to the sustainable production of organic and fairly traded products, including RSPO certified organic palm oil. Post-merger, AAF holds 49.99%, with Finnfund and Natural Habitats Europe-Africa BV holding 22.51% and 27.5%, respectively.

Pieter Van Dessel, Goldtree General Manager, said: ‘We see meaningful synergies stemming from this merger, starting with the consolidation of our route-to-market strategies to enhance services in our local and international markets. #

Moreover, with Natural Habitats’ organic certification and management expertise, together with Goldtree’s deep experience in developing and managing outgrowers and plantations, we intend to increase exports of certified organic palm oil into Europe, to meet growing market demand for traceable, ethically produced and manufactured palm oil.

We see this as both extremely exciting and pivotal to the way in which we will do business.’ Nieks Bezuidenhout, leading the Phatisa merger team, added: ‘This transaction provides significant opportunities to reach scale under a shared growth vision.

Likewise, we intend to reap the benefits of efficiencies from improved utilisation within our milling capacity, resulting in a more sustainable business which is so critical to the livelihoods of our staff, smallholder farmers and the communities we touch.

Phatisa is extremely proud of the partnership we have shared with Goldtree since our initial investment in 2011.

We are excited to be part of a continued journey with management and the Goldtree outgrower community to unlock further potential and sustainably grow this business into the future.’ Jan Hein de Vroe, CEO of Natural Habitats, concluded: ‘Beyond the many operational advantages of this merger, we have the additional benefit of a guaranteed off-take of all RSPO and organic certified crude palm oil.

Indeed, over time, we intend to deepen our European relationships as a trusted, certified RSPO organic oil producer to better service those markets, to the ultimate benefit of all our employees and the local communities who are reliant on our sustained growth and success.’ Established in 2007, Goldtree is located in Daru, in the Eastern Province of Sierra Leone.

Its operations are based on the rehabilitation of an abandoned mill destroyed in the 1991‒2002 civil war. The new mill was commissioned in 2013, making it the first commercial mill operating in Sierra Leone post the civil war. The mill has a 14 tonnes-per-hour capacity for processing fresh fruit bunches (FFB) into crude palm oil (CPO) and palm kernel oil.

Goldtree employs a nucleus-outgrower production model, sourcing FFB from its own nucleus about 2,000 hectares plus more than 8,000 outgrowers farming within a 40-kilometre radius of the mill.

Natural Habitats Europe-Africa brings to the merger NedOil ‒ an organically certified milling company in the central part of Sierra Leone producing CPO mainly from FFB secured from outgrowers ‒ and Zimmi, a small organic nucleus plantation, with significant expansion opportunities, in the southern part of Sierra Leone.

Following the merger, Goldtree will have 2,300 total replanted hectares, 220,000 seedlings available for a further planting ‒ 1,400 hectares worth. It will also reach 60,000 metric tonnes per year mill capacity at Daru and enable 5,100 metric tonnes per year mill capacity at NedOil

In addition, it would employ 300 permanent and 1,000 full-time equivalent staff that will positively impact about 10,000 outgrowers. The transaction value has not been disclosed and the transaction is not subject to any outstanding conditions precedent or regulatory requirements.