Kranskop land claim farms taste fruit of success

2010-08-17 00:00

THE Ithuba Agriculture Company in Kranskop is on the verge of turning a profit on the farms it received under the land restitution programme and has been managing since 2005.

The farms are managed for the benefit of the Ngcolosi Community Trust, which put claims on 12 farms in the area that were successfully transferred to it.

The project has been hailed as one of the most successful ventures under the land restitution programme as all the farms are fully operational and the community continues to improve their efficiency.

To date, the estimated 8 000 hectares of farmlands include 838 hectares of rainfed sugar cane, 1  780 of timber plantations, 100 hectares of white maize lands, three hectares of kiwi fruit, two hectares of chillies and a hectare of leather leaf fern.

Each year the company supplies between 65 000 to 70 000 tons of sugar and over 17 000 tons of timber.

The project is a sophisticated operation with more than 11 qualified managers who oversee the activies of the farms, including a general manager, human resources manager and a timber harvesting manager.

It also employs more than 300 permanent staff members who are all from the community, and during the harvesting season, the number increases to more than 500 people.

Rob West, the farm’s general manager, who was brought in by the community after it received the farms, said the project is a resounding success and it is looking to turn a profit during the next financial year.

“We have managed to pay off all our capital assets that were taking up most of our profits,” he said.

The capital assets include at least 24 tractors and a number of bakkies.

The trust also recently bought three trucks, Hino horses that pull multi-purpose tri-axle trailers that are suited for farm produce.

West said, “The community started with nothing. All they got from the land claim was the land and the commodities on it.

“There were no tractors, implements and inputs of any kind that the Ngcolosi could use to run the farms.

“By putting solid plans and systems in place, the community developed partnerships that enabled it to move on the right track.”

He said the plans it put in place included partnering with an established agriculture company, putting in an experienced management team, adhering to sound agricultural practices and training the staff.

West attributed part of Ithuba’s success to Crystal Holdings, an agriculture-based company in Empangeni that helped it with capital for initial inputs and equipment.

Alfred Xulu, the chairperson of the Ngcolosi Community Trust, said the community is benefiting directly from the venture.

“To date we employ more than 300 members of the community, a number that increases during the harvesting seasons.”

Heino Duvel, the chairperson of the Krans­kop Farmers’ Association, said that although he is not fully aware of the intricate workings of the project, he knows that it has been a success.

He attributed the community’s success to the decision “to bring in a strong management team”.

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