In November 2020, PHC was acquired by Feronia KNM whose majority shareholder is KN Agri, a food and agriculture focused investment fund. KN Agri’s principal investors are Kuramo Capital Management and Nile Capital Management, African focused investment management businesses based in the United States of America.
Plantations et Huileries du Congo (PHC) started its life in 1911 as Huileries du Congo Belge (HCB). Established by Lever Brothers (Unilever) to supply palm oil to its Port Sunlight soap factory in the UK, it grew to become one of the largest private sector employers in Africa, supplying edible oils and other agricultural products to local and international markets.
HCB remained in continuous operation through the transformation from Belgian rule to independence and, when the Congo became the République du Zaire in 1960, the Company became Plantations Lever au Zaire (PLZ). Consisting of 11 plantations, PLZ helped make the DRC the World’s second largest palm oil producer at the time.
PLZ became PHC in 1997 when Zaire became the Democratic Republic of the Congo. During the two Congo wars, which lasted from 1996 to 2003, PHC’s operations suffered significantly and a lack of investment resulted in each plantation struggling to survive.
Over time, Unilever disposed of many of its DRC assets and, in September 2009, sold its 76.17% holding in PHC to Canadian agriculture company Feronia Inc. Between 2009 and 2020, Feronia Inc. invested tens of millions of dollars in PHC but experienced ongoing financial difficulties. Feronia Inc. was declared bankrupt in late 2020 and, as part of a restructuring process, the 76.17% shareholding in PHC was acquired by a new company, Feronia KNM, which is committed to securing PHC’s future for the long term. The Government of the DRC owns the remaining 23.83% shareholding in PHC.
Established in the 1910s, Boteka is PHC’s oldest and smallest plantation. Located approximately 100 km east of the town of Mbandaka, Boteka is made up of one estate with approximately 3,700 hectares of oil palm planted.
Established in the 1920s, Lokutu is PHC’s largest plantation. Located approximately 200 km down the Congo River from from Kisangani, Lokutu is made up of three estates (Lokutu, Mosite and Lokumete) with approximately 9,700 hectares of oil palm planted.
Established in the 1930s, Yaligimba, is PHC’s second largest plantation. Located approximately 150 km down river from the Lokutu plantation, Yaligimba is made up of two estates (Nord and Sud) with approximately 8,000 hectares of palm oil planted.
PHC has three operational palm oil mills which produce crude palm oil (CPO) and palm kernel oil (PKO) from the fruit harvested at its three sites. All of PHC’s production is sold in the Democratic Republic of the Congo for domestic consumption.
PHC and its new owners are contractually committed to an Environmental and Social Action Plan (ESAP), a summary of which is available below.
This ESAP sets out the steps that PHC will take, with the support of its Development Finance Institution lenders, to build PHC’s ESG capabilities, work in partnership with local communities, maintain and improve environmental standards and seek solutions to enhance worker pay and conditions
In the interest of transparency, documents supporting PHC’s delivery of ESAP requirements will be made available in this section.
An Independent Complaints Mechanism (ICM) mediation process, which is reviewing a formal complaint made by a number of communities about PHC and its former owner, Feronia Inc., will continue with the support of PHC, its new owners and its DFI lenders.