Agriculture thrives for community trust income generator

Ithuba Agriculture, which was established as an income and employment generator for a community trust in the Kranskop area of KwaZulu-Natal, has made very good progress since its establishment in 2005. This progress has enabled it to buy three new Hino 700-Series truck-tractors of its own instead of have to use transport contractors.

Situated on 8,000 hectares that were purchased from 12 former owners on the willing seller/willing buyer principle, the business venture had to borrow its seed capital, which stretched only to buying 24 used tractors and some bakkies, while having to use contract transport to move the sugar cane, timber and wattle bark.

General manager Rob West, who joined the undertaking shortly before it went into operation, says the secret for the success of the business is that it has the full backing of the local community as well as some very experienced and well qualified management team members. They are providing mentorship to the other employees, which number 500 at the height of the season.

The farm is worked intensely - 24/7 for 320 days of the year. It currently has 1,800 hectare under sugar cane, 1,700 hectare under timber (gum, pine and wattle) and 100 hectare of maize, as well as an area with kiwi fruit.

There is concentration on cane for eight months, with daily deliveries to the Gledhow Mill of at least 500 tonnes, which make it the biggest supplier to the mill. Then the focus shifts to timber for four months, with an output of 1 500 – 1,800 tonnes of wood a month, as well as 25 tonnes of bark a day.

Multi-purpose Transpec tri-axle trailers are used to transport the various loads, while the Compass fleet management system is used to monitor the drivers and the fleet, with one driver’s rating already as high as 97%. “We will use the system to improve the driving techniques of those drivers that are below par,” said Rob West.

Ithuba’s general manager said he did a lot of research before deciding to buy Hino trucks and said the competitive pricing and product reputation were important factors. He added that he was also enjoying a very good relationship with the dealer, Hino Pietermaritzburg and in particular sales executive Billy Binns.

Ithuba is buying the trucks outright and will look to replacing them in a three-year cycle when they are expected to have covered about 500,000km.

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