Sweet success for Maidstone Mill
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The picture this week takes in the Maidstone Sugar Mill at Tongaat, one of the big three of the province’s 12 sugar mills, with Sezela on the South Coast being the biggest.
The picture comes from the walls of a Tongaat restaurant that has a number of historic portraits celebrating the town’s local history.
The mill at Tongaat was the first to be set up in the province in 1903, by Sir James Liege Hulett, sugar planter, industrialist and politician. Hulett pioneered the country's sugar industry when he founded the Hulett Company in 1892.
The sugar mill at Maidstone was originally built on the banks of the Amanzimnyama river near Tongaat, but due to the need for expansion and a failing water supply, it was relocated to its present site on the north bank of the uThongathi River.
Cane supply area to the mill includes the farming area of Ndwedwe, and extensive estates within about 30km of the mill. This includes a large area of newly emergent farmers that were established with the assistance of the company. Maidstone mill also receives most of the cane that used to be delivered to the Mt Edgecombe mill from areas stretching as far as Umlaas Road and Shongweni.
The mill crushes 1.34 million tons of cane a year to produce about 135 000 tons of sugar. It can crush about 440 tons an hour through two parallel extraction plants.
Today the sugar industry in KwaZulu-Natal provides about 350 000 jobs and approximately one million people, most in rural areas, are dependent on it in some way.
KZN produces a crop of 20 million tons of sugarcane annually, which translates into approximately two million tons of sugar for an annual turnover of about R5 to R6 billion. Approximately 80% of the South African industry is located in KZN.
In the current picture, our photographer Shelley Kjonstad searched high and low for a vantage point that matched the original picture, but sadly there was nowhere from Maidstone that offered such a shot. Short of arranging a helicopter, we took the picture from Hambanathi township on the south side of the uThongathi River.
The Independent on Saturday