Sugarcane History

History of Tongaat Sugar South Africa

The first sugarcane was planted in South Africa, in the North Coast of KwaZulu-Natal by Edward Morewood in 1848. Morewood established the first small Sugar Mill in KwaDukuza (Stanger), South Africa.

Tongaat Hulett Sugar

Many different leaders, who are the following, have influenced the history of Huletts Sugar:  James Liege Hulett, Albert Hulett, Reggie Edwards, Guy Hulett, Kess van der Pol and Chirs Standers. These great leaders all made a contribution to the success of the Hulett’s Company.

James Liege Hulett arrived in Durban in 1857. He was first employed by a chemist called Mr Burgess, however after a short period of employment Hulett decided to further his career in a different industry, namely Agriculture.

Huletts first took up land in Mount Moreland and there he experimented with various types of crops. In 1864 he relocated to Kearsney, there he planted various crops, which were all very successful until his crops were destroyed by borer (insect pest) and rust (fungus) disease.

While living in Kearsney, Hulett built a colonial style house as well as a chapel, which was used as a social and religious centre. The building also survived as a refuge in the Bamatha Rebellion (a rebellion against taxation). In 1909 the building was replaced by another building, which is now a National Building.

In 1878, Hulett began planting and producing tea, starting in a much more profitable industry in Natal, the planting and producing of tea.

In 1907 the Amatikulu Sugar Mill was opened, crushing 7000 tons of cane in its first season of operation. By 1911 the cane supply grew by 11000 tons of sugar. After the successful opening of the Amatikulu Sugar Mill, the Flixton Sugar Mill was established on the Mhlatuze River, having the capacity of 35 tons of cane per hour compared to the Amatikulu Sugar Mill, which produces about 30 tons of cane per hour.

In 1910, the decision to expand was made and the company was expanded to Durban. The decision was made to process raw sugar from not only the Hulett Sugar Mills but from other mills, which were also in the sugar industry. Therefore between 1903 and 1911, Hulett’s expanded his company with the following: four major sugar mills, the building of a large central refinery, while continuing to profit from the plating and producing of his tea estate, with those two factories in Kearsney. During this period Hulett moved to his Manor House in Durban and his eldest son took over as the Managing Director of the company.

James Liege Hulett died in 1928 at the age of 90. His son Albert Hulett took the position as Chairman of the company and R Edwards as Managing Director.

During the 1920’s and 1930’s the company expanded with the addition of Emoyeni Co-Op Sugar Milling, however this mill was closed in 1938 and the cane that was produced was transported to Amatikulu.

During the 1930’s the sugar industry began to struggle, due to the severe droughts, malaria, infestation of locust and the great depression.

Due to this many Sugarcane Farmers were forced to abandon their efforts and thus the Hulett Company took over these farms and that was the establishment of the land holding of Tongaat Hulett.