SANEWS.GOV / 23 JANUARY 2019- 14.11 / STAFF REPORTER
The Limpopo Provincial Government plans to build a multimillion rand marula hub in Lephalale, scheduled for completion in February 2020.
According to the provincial government, the new Marula industrial hub, once complete, will boost of processing facilities, a research centre and agri-business support services for rural farmers and small businesses wanting to get into the marula value chain.
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The annual Limpopo Marula Festival, now in its 14th year, was launched to help develop the industry and achieve a broader socio-economic impact. The provincial government now wants to take beneficiation of the indigenous fruit beyond the alcohol industry.
Speaking at the launch of the 2019 Marula Festival in Lephalale at the weekend, the Limpopo MEC for Economic Development and Tourism, Seaparo Sekoati, said plans were at an advanced stage, with the hub set to be open in time for the milestone 15th Annual Marula Festival in February 2020.
“The Provincial Exco [executive committee] took a conscious decision not only to host an annual festival with no long-term economic benefits but to develop a sustainable industry out of this wild fruit for the primary objective of addressing the triple challenge of inequality, poverty and unemployment.
“Today, the Limpopo Marula Festival contributes in excess of R45 million to the local economy of Ba-Phalaborwa and the Mopani District through general trade and also generates more than 500 job opportunities for the local communities, a figure that should be doubled in the next three years,” Sekoati said.
The marula tree falls within species that are protected by the country’s environmental laws. The provincial government is partnering with both the Department of Environmental Affairs and South African National Parks to ensure the sustenance of this valuable species.
“We will use the various platforms to raise awareness to our beneficiaries, who are our communities, to discourage deforestation, which contributes to the devastations of climate change.
“We need to encourage the reforestation of communities with Marula trees, and that requires protection to mitigate climate change, while creating long-term [benefits] for local communities,” Sekoati said.
Last year, the Limpopo Provincial Government announced the development of the Limpopo Marula Hub as an industrial park where various marula products will be produced in terms of the market demands and serve as the new home of the annual Limpopo Marula Festival.
To date, the festival attracts scores of domestic, regional and international tourists and it is anticipated to grow in future. The hub will be designed to host in excess of 50 000 festival patrons within the two weekends of the event.
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