Marula products a `must buy' on tourists' list

P.T. Jyothi Datta

Recently in Phalaborwa (South Africa), July 7

If India has Darjeeling tea andFrance has Champagne, thento Africa it must be the indigenousMarula tree, locally alsocalled the `Elephant tree' thatsupports products rangingfrom liqueur to cosmetics.

And one such liqueur thatbottles-up this `Spirit of Africa'is Distell Group's AmarulaCream, where the Marulafruit's liqueur is blended withfresh cream to create thesmooth drink with its distincttaste. Though the product isnot available yet in India, itoften features on the "mustbuy" list of Indian tourists returninghome from Africa.

Locals believe the Marulatree has several qualities,ranging from medicinal toaphrodisiac.

But the plum-sized yellowfruit is believed to pack intoitself more vitamin than anorange, says Distell's ThatoMakgolane.

Africa is home to the Marulatree, specially the Limpopoprovince in South Africawhere the tree grows in abundance,he said. All Marulabasedproducts distributedacross the world are producedfrom this region, he indicated.

Located at about 12 kmfrom the Phalaborwa Gate ofSouth Africa's famous KrugerNational Park is the AmarulaLapa, housing Distell's productionfacility where preliminarylevels of sorting andquality control of the Marulafruit are done.

INCOME GENERATION

"Locals bring the fruits directlyto the facility, or to severaldelivery points that wehave in the village," he toldmediapersons visiting theAmarula facility. The fruit isbought from the locals, generatingincome for about60,000 people, he said.

The fruit-bearing season isbetween January and March.It is selected, sorted andwashed before reaching thede-stoning tank where thefruit pulp is separated fromthe hard kernal.

The fruit pulp is subsequentlytransported in tankersto Distell's cellar atStellenbosch, South Africa'swine-producing region,where the pulp is transferredinto tanks to start the fermentationprocess in a processsimilar to wine-making.

THE SPIRIT

The Marula wine is then distilledto produce the Marulaspirit, which is oak-maturedfor two years in barrels.

This is de-barrelled andblended with the fresh creamto form Amarula Cream Liqueurthat is distributed inover 100 countries. The finalproduct contains about 17 percent alcohol and is sold atabout 50 Rands for a 750-mlbottle or 65 Rands for onelitre.

Amarula was launched as aspirit in 1983 and as a liqueurin 1989, the official said. Andthe product is sold in parts ofAsia. Originally part of DistillersCorporation, Amarulais now part of the DistellGroup, listed on the JohannesburgStock Exchange andformed from the merger ofDistillers Corporation andStellenbosch Farmers Winery.

Other products made fromthe fruit and capturing thetaste of Africa include, theMarula beer, a potent localdrink, besides jams and jellies.

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated July 8, 2007)
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