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European investors take a stake in Lona, one of the largest South African citrus exporters

On May 20, Freshplaza published an article on how the Lona Group acquired a majority stake in the Unlimited Group, creating an entity with a combined export and import volume of more than 8 million cartons of fruit and vegetables.

Now, Phatisa, a local private equity fund and a group of European investors have just acquired a minor stake in Cape Town-based citrus grower and exporter Lona Group. The value of the deal has not been disclosed, but the capital will be directed towards expanding the company.

The consortium of investors includes Phatisa, British, Norwegian, and Finland-based development finance institutions (DFIs), British International Investment, Norfund, and Finnfund, respectively. The DFIs are all investors in Phatisa’s second phase food fund, targeting entities in the African food value chain. It seeks to impact food security in the sub-Saharan region positively. The Phatisa Food Fund 2 is worth $143 million or R2.2 billion.

With farms in five locations in the country, Lona is one of the largest citrus exporters in South Africa. It has about 50 export destinations worldwide, including key regions such as China, the UK, the USA, and parts of Africa. It exports more than 5 million 15kg cartons of fruit a year.

Its operations go beyond growing and exporting citrus; it is involved across the food value chain and farms, aggregates, and packs various fruit such as mango, grape, olives, and stone fruit. It also looks after cold storage and logistics, and marketing fruit and is in fruit and vegetable processing.

The company has also been steadily expanding its portfolio to value-added products, including dried fruit, through its facilities, Veggie Crisps, and local table olives producer, Cape Olive. It recently acquired majority shareholding in the Unlimited Group, an  exporter and importer of fresh fruit, vegetables, and nuts.


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