Zululand Observer - Weekender
Team tasked to turn around tea estate
KZN MEC for Agriculture and Rural Development, Bongi Sithole-Moloi, has deployed a team to develop a turnaround strategy for the Ntingwe tea estate in Nkandla.
Delivering the department’s budget speech in the KZN Legislature on Tuesday, Sithole-Moloi said the team will come up with a plan to assist the estate to reach its full potential.
‘The resuscitation plan will have to address the challenges facing the estate, even if it means a diversification of commodities grown there.
‘The estate has never been developed to its full potential of 600 hectares. Its factory can only process 200 hectares of black tea and an extremely limited amount of green tea which overseas markets demand.
‘At one stage the estate employed more than 600 seasonal workers and provided indirect income to thousands of households in one of the very poorest of our rural communities. It must do so again,’ said Sithole-Moloi.
The estate was set up in 1993 with a R40-million investment by the Ithala Development Finance Corporation, and later another R40-million grant from the provincial government.
According to reports, the estate faced financial difficulty owing to a decline in the country’s tea production industry because of high production costs and competition.
Sithole-Moloi said there are plans to amalgamate three of the department’s agricultural entities, including the estate.
‘Amalgamating different entities, however, affects operations and brings anxiety among staff.
‘We are therefore committed to bring it to a speedy conclusion. We are anticipating that this process will be concluded by December,’ she said.
During her budget speech, the MEC also announced a partnership with the iLembe Enterprise Development Agency for the launch of a 20 000 egg laying facility which is owned by youth in Mandeni.
The R10.5-million project is expected to create eighty permanent jobs once it is completed.