Sugar cane has been a part of the north Queensland scene almost since the area was opened up, and it gained an extra push when World War II ended.
Labour was short, cane was plentiful and world demand was up, according to the pages of the North Queensland Register in 1945.
A writer going under the pseudonym of Sucrose was agog with the news that a movement to establish an additional sugar mill in the Herbert River district by the Ingham RSL had gripped the attention of all.
“Many well wishers for the furtherance of the welfare of returning servicemen have already given much thought to the suggestion, so that even at such an early junction, the scheme possesses much merit,” the flowery prose gushed.
His argument was based around the increase in production, saying that “while the expansion of the sugar industry since the beginning of the present century has been from seven to eight fold, this has been brought about by increased capacity in milling units and not by an increase in the actual number of factories”.
At the start of the century Queensland was producing just over 100,000 ton of sugar but by 1939 this had increased to just under 800,000 tons.
In contrast, in 1901 there were 60 sugar mills functioning in Queensland but in 1939 that had dropped to 33.
Sucrose’s crowning argument for building a new mill was that it “could serve to bring about a dilution of the foreign population in the area”.
“From the viewpoint of defence, this has much to commend it,” he says.
“Sucrose” was a favourite of the Register and he was given more chances to expound on behalf of the sugar industry, writing another day to urge the government to give it fairer treatment.
“Australia has a golden opportunity to have her sugar house set in order and help by the greatest possible production to feed the people of many European and other countries who are crying aloud for sugar,” he writes.
“There are indications that the total sugar cane crop for the State may be in the vicinity of 5,000,000 tons, yet there appears at this juncture little hope that there will be sufficient labour to harvest and mill it.
“Unless the Queensland sugar industry receives fairer treatment from the Federal Government the industry will not be able to take its place with those sugar countries which are in aposition to supply sugar to the war-scarred countries of Europe.”
He urged government to relax labour prohibitions to take advantage of the decline of the sugar industry in Java under the domination of Japanese occupation.