British International Investment
24 May 2022

We’re partnering with Phatisa and other DFIs to invest into South African integrated food business

• Consortium of global development finance institutions back Phatisa-led investment
• Expansion capital to drive growth and investment into cutting-edge, sustainable food production

We’re investing in Lona Group, a South Africa-based citrus and fresh-produce exporter. Our investment comes as part of a consortium led by Phatisa, a leading fund manager in sub-Saharan Africa, and other development finance institutions (DFIs), Norfund and Finnfund.

As one of the largest integrated fruit businesses in South Africa, the Lona Group is involved in activities across the food value chain, from: farming, aggregating and packing fruit (citrus, mango, grape, olives, and stonefruit), to: cold storage and logistics, marketing fruit for export and domestic consumption, plus fruit and vegetable processing. With line of sight across the entire value chain, Lona has tight controls, traceability, and reknowned reliability amongst customers.

Beyond its own fruit production, Lona also provides an integrated platform for other producers. Plus, the business has expanded to value-add products, such as dried fruit through its two M-Pak facilities, Veggie Crisps, and the local leader in table olives – Cape Olive. More recently, it acquired a majority stake in the Unlimited Group – an integrated producer, packer, processor, exporter and importer of fresh fruit, vegetables and nuts.

Established by CEO, Spencer Johnson, in 1996 from his father’s garage, Lona now exports c. 5 million cartons of citrus, in addition to a significant volume of other fresh produce each year – predominantly to the UK and Europe, North America, the Middle East, Asia, and increasingly to the rest of the African continent. Beyond its farming and packhouse operations in the Western and Eastern Cape, Mpumalanga, Limpopo and Zimbabwe, Lona has developed some of the most advanced automated cold storage facilities on the continent. These provide Lona and their third-party customers with a state-of-the-art and efficient cold chain, thus ensuring fruit has a longer shelf life, and reducing food waste.

It is envisaged that the consortium’s expansion capital will be used to further improve Lona’s facilities, particularly the building of new packhouses, orchard netting to protect crops from adverse weather, the development of new innovative fruit and value-add products, as well as making the business more climate resilient whilst reducing its carbon footprint.

Sarah Mathies, Head of PE Sector Funds, British International Investment, said:

“BII is thrilled to be collaborating with Lona Group management in this co-investment led by Phatisa, a long standing and trusted partner. We are confident that Lona Group’s deep market knowledge and strong growth track record, will help to strengthen the food value chain, and increase productive and inclusive economic opportunities for low-income workers, particularly women. Moreover, we are excited to support Lona Group in increasing climate adaptation initiatives that will boost business resilience and enhance sustainability within South Africa’s agriculture sector.”



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