Oct

Local sugar cane farmers haul their way to success

2017-10-20 12:04
Zululand Agricultural Holdings started back in 2013 and today employs 120 people. The fleet has grown from 15 to 42 trucks truck combinations, three tractors and two Bell loaders.

FleetWatch loves coming across stories which epitomise the entrepreneurial spirit of transport and this one – which goes back to 2013 as its starting point – is such a story.

When Unitrans ended its cane haulage operations in the Felixton and Amatikulu areas in northern KwaZulu-Natal back in 2013, the cane growers in the area got together and managed to raise sufficient capital to buy the Unitrans’ assets in the two operational areas to ensure sustainability of their businesses and livelihood. The two areas boast 50 commercial growers and more than 2 500 small-scale cane growers.

It was on April 6, 2013, with support from 95% of the growers, that the farmers formed their own company, Zululand Agricultural Holdings (ZAH). The change of ownership resulted in a deal which included 15 rigid-drawbar truck combinations and various moveable assets used at the depot to haul cane.

Both large and small-scale growers delivering cane to the Amatikulu mill supply area became shareholders in the company and a long-term lease agreement was negotiated with Tongaat Hulett for the use of a depot and office complex.

“Tongaat Hulett played an influential role in providing guidance to ZAH; assisting the company with the alignment of the administrative processes and brought on board new clients who positively impacted on the growth of the company,” says Nkonzo Mhlongo, Tongaat Hulett Socio-economic Development Manager.

Dave Littley, managing director of ZAH and a cane grower with experience in transport logistics, project management and engineering says: “During 2013/14 and 2014/15, the company successfully managed to haul a total of 859 000 tons of cane despite the tough drought stages that the agricultural sector experienced.”

Another milestone development took place in 2016 when ZAH took over the Super Group Melmoth’s cane haulage business as well as two vehicles from Alternate Sure Haulage.

ZAH plans to expand its business operations in the next few years and is looking at several opportunities that will further add value to the business. The first expansion did, in fact, take place in 2014 when the company entered the timber haulage sector after being awarded the Tongaat Hulett Sugar Amatikulu Smuts contract. The company now also owns its own depot in Melmoth.

Apart from growing revenue, ZAH is also determined to continue up-skilling existing staff while also assisting in the training of handicapped individuals. The company currently has 120 employees.

Part of the fleet of 42 rigid-drawbar truck combinations operated by Zululand Agricultural Holdings.

Part of the fleet of 42 rigid-drawbar truck combinations operated by Zululand Agricultural Holdings.

Under the guidance of Alan Gordon, general manager of ZAH, no stone was left unturned over the years to ensure the company achieved above budget results. Since its first year of operation to date, ZAH has increased revenue by 400% and the fleet has grown from 15 to 42 trucks, three tractors and two Bell loaders,” says Gordon.

Gordon adds that to date, the company can report on some notable achievements including the fact that all shareholders were paid back dividends on their ZAH shares with R2.7-million worth of dividends paid to the participating small scale growers and cooperatives in 2016/17.

In an economic climate which has seen South Africa’s growth decline over the past few years, it is so refreshing to come across a story of advancement and positive growth. Well done ZAH!

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