While overall domestic sales volumes for all Distell products dropped by 1.6% for the six-month period to 31 December 2003, the group's figures for the rest of Africa were up 14.9% and its other international figures increased by 19.7%.

According to the interim figures released by chairman, David Nurek and MD Jan Scannell, late yesterday, sales volumes for wine on the international market were up 23.8%, but the impact of a strong Rand dragged sales revenue down by 9.9%.

This unfavourable of the improvement in the value of the Rand on margins largely negated growth in trading income, which increased by only 0.4%.

Distell was, however, optimistic about prospects for the international market, which it saw as key to the group's medium and long-term growth.

"We have set our sights on becoming a leading "New World" wine player, and aim to achieve wine sales in excess of 30 million litres by 2006," said Scannell.

Overall sales revenue grew by 8.5% even though sales volumes remained constant.