When you think of world class tea production, KwaZulu-Natal does not immediately spring to mind. However, Nkandla in the rural heartland of the province is home to a world renowned tea producer that is changing the lives of a community. Based in KwaZulu-Natal, Ntingwe Tea Estate started with just 25 hectares of tea. Thirteen years and 425 hectares later, the estate counts Woolworths and the most prestigious tea merchants in Europe among its clientele. Supporting empowered enterprise development is a key focus area for Woolworths. Ntingwe tea has been a feature on Woolworths shelves as a single-origin tea for 5 years. Ntingwe Tea Estate was created by the Ithala Development Finance Corporation in 1988 and later funded jointly by KwaZulu-Natal Agriculture and Environmental Affairs. They set out to help the impoverished rural community by forming a business that would create employment and facilitate socioeconomic development in the region. At the time 60 percent of the region’s residents were unemployed. Why tea? The region’s climate was considered suitable for tea growing. The crop had also been identified as labour-intensive thus providing employment and infrastructural development for the area. Veteran industry expert Ryle Perera, General Manager of Ntingwe Tea was contracted to develop the commercial side of the business. From the beginning the estate decided to focus on the premium single origin tea market. While Ntingwe tea is produced on a single estate and is unblended, the commercial tea market is dominated by tea blends containing ingredients that are produced all over the world. The enterprise now employs nine hundred people from surrounding villages and kraals. It has helped bring electricity, running water, telephones, clinics and schools to the area. The estate has also trained farm labourers, electricians, managers, administrators and nurserymen. Furthermore, the Ntingwe Tea Estate works with local growers, who grow tea on their land. The estate purchases leaves produced from these plots for processing at the factory. Perera says the local market should pay more attention to locally produced single origin tea. “The premium tea market is very discerning. The range and breadth of our clientele proves that this country grows and produces world class tea.” Ntingwe tea is produced from plants that are harvested during the summer months. Quality is paramount. Trained tea tasters routinely check every batch to ensure the estate is producing the best tea day by day. In keeping with Woolworths Good business journey, Ntingwe supplies Woolworths with tea packaged in a container made from recycled material. Commenting on the initiative, Julian Novak, Head of Foods says: “Ntingwe tea’s success is truly inspirational. We are privileged to have been part of it. Woolworths continues to identify and work with emerging suppliers and give them access to the formal marketplace.” Ends. Editor’s notes Woolworths Good business journey Woolworths was named international responsible retailer of the year at the 2008 World Retail Awards in recognition of our Good business journey – our ongoing plan to make a difference in our communities, our country and our world. Woolworths Good business journey is a comprehensive 5 year plan announced in April 2007 to help people and planet. It incorporates a series of challenging targets and commitments centred on four key priorities: accelerating transformation, driving social development, enhancing Woolworths environmental focus and addressing climate change. Woolworths is committed to transformation across the business and has already embarked upon a company-wide planning and development programme to ensure that transformation becomes an entrenched way of doing business. For Woolworths, this is both holistic in nature –transforming the way we do business across all aspects of the dti scorecard – and collaborative in approach, working in partnership with our franchise partners, our suppliers, and the public sector including government. Supporting ermeging suppliers is key part of our strategy. Woolworths goal is to become a level 4 BEE contributor (dti codes) by 2012. Woolworths is also a proudly South African business with a long tradition of quality and innovation in South Africa. Only where Woolworths can’t offer customers the right level of quality, value and technological innovation from our local suppliers, Woolworths look to other countries.