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 will boast processing facilities, a research centre and agri-business support services for rural farmers and small businesses who want access to the Marula value chain.

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 open in time for the milestone 15th Annual Marula Festival in February 2020.

“The provincial exco took a conscious decision 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 challenges 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 generates more than 500 job opportunities for local communities, a figure that should double in the next three years,” Sekoati said.

The Marula tree is a protected species. The provincial government is partnering with the Department of Environmental Affairs and South African National Parks to ensure the sustainability of this valuable species.

“We will use various platforms to raise awareness to our beneficiaries, who are our communities, to discourage deforestation, which contributes to the devastation 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 serving Marula production facilities and 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. –