South African wine and spirit maker Distell Group said growth is likely to slow this year, despite posting an 18% increase in first-half profit.

Net income reached ZAR651m (US$63.5m) in the six months to the end of December,  up from ZAR551m in the same period of 2007, Distell said late last week. Sales gained 22% to reach RND6.1bn.

Despite this, MD Jan Scannell said "global and local trading conditions will become increasingly difficult.

"It is extremely difficult to forecast under current volatile conditions. Distell nevertheless expects to reflect lower growth in revenue and earnings for the financial year."

Scannell said that domestic sales volumes had increased by 10.7%, and revenue by 14.8%, with growth powered mainly by the rising popularity of the company's cider and RTD brands, which continued to build market share.

However, the spirits market has remained under pressure and, although the company increased its share of this category, its volumes declined slightly. it said.

Sales volumes in South Africa rose 11%, while those outside the country gained 37%.

Scannell said that South Africa's economy and its consumers were continuing to adjust to the "unfavourable impact of a highly troubled global economy and a moderation in real disposable income". 

"The deterioration in the global economy is expected to continue with major economies now in recession and it is unlikely that we shall see an early end to these depressed conditions," he added.