Key Dates in the History of the Australian Sugar Industry
1788 The First Fleet brought sugar cane to Australia.
1821 Unsuccessful attempts were made to grow sugar cane as a crop at Port Macquarie, New South Wales.
1842 The first sugar refinery was built in Sydney to refine imported sugar.
1862 Captain Louis Hope and John Buhot established a sugar cane plantation near Brisbane. Hope operated Australia’s first commercial sugar mill.
1864 Cane growing spread along the coast of Queensland and northern New South Wales.
1870 A system of large central sugar mills, supplied with cane by independent farmers, was introduced by the Colonial Sugar Refining Company (now CSR Limited) in northern New South Wales.
1885 Many small sugar mills closed down due to the depressed state of the sugar industry.
1888 The first co-operative central mill opened at North Eton in Queensland.
1890 The first world’s first mechanical cane harvester was built.
1893 Sugar Works Guarantee Act authorises the funding of central sugar mills with financial backing by the Queensland Government.
1901 Protective import duties were placed on sugar.
1907 The Australian Sugar Producers Association (ASPA) – forerunner of the ACFA – is formed at a conference in Townsville.
1909 The Australian Sugar Producers Association (ASPA) comments printing the Australian Sugar Journal
1912 Report of the Royal Commission on the sugar industry (1911-1912)
1915 The Sugar Acquisition Act and Regulation of Sugar Cane Prices Act were passed by the Queensland Government. These legislate and establish regulatory controls over production levels, marketing and pricing. Though not to the same extent, regulatory controls are also imposed on wages and working conditions.
1922 Australia began exporting raw sugar.
1923 The Commonwealth Government handed control of the sugar industry to the Queensland Government. The Sugar Board in Queensland, established under the Sugar Acquisition Act 1915, takes over the authority to acquire and market all raw sugar produced in Queensland.Australian raw sugar first exported to New Zealand and the UK.
1924 Australian raw sugar first exported to Canada.
1925 Queensland legislation establishes the basis for the future Qld Canegrowers Council.
1929 The “mill peak” scheme was introduced.
1937 The first International Sugar Agreement (ISA) was negotiated – but did not commence operation due to World War 2.
1941 Australian raw sugar first exported to the US (regular supplier from 1961).
1945 Australian raw sugar first exported to Malaysia (regular supplier from 1972).
1951 The Commonwealth Sugar Agreement was signed with the United Kingdom. Homebush Mill (Mackay) closed.
1953 The first post-war ISA, with quotas for exporters, was negotiated.
1954 Bulk handling of raw sugar was introduced to Australia. Australian raw sugar first exported to Japan.
1962 Australia exported more than one million tonnes of raw sugar. Australian raw sugar first exported to Korea (regular supplier from 1972).
1963 The Queensland Government committee recommended expansion of the Queensland sugar industry.
1967 Australian raw sugar first exported to Singapore.
1968 Australia exported more than two million tonnes of raw sugar.
1969 ISA 1968 began operation for a five year term.
1972 The first long-term sales contract was negotiated. Australian raw sugar first exported to China, Morocco and Russia (former Soviet Union).
1974 The Commonwealth Sugar Agreement and the US Sugar Act were terminated. Record high world free market prices of US 66,00c/lb were recorded on the raw sugar futures contract in New York on 21 November. Gin Gin Mill (Wallaville) closed.
1978 ISA 1977 began operation. The Industries Assistance Commission inquired into the sugar industry. New South Wales Sugar Milling Co-operative Limited was formed to purchase the three New South Wales Mills from CSR Limited.
1979 Australian sugar industry achieved 100 percent conversion to mechanical cane harvesting.
1982 A ceremony, attended by HRH the Duke of Edinburgh, was held in Mackay to mark a quarter of a century of bulk handling.
1983 The second IAC inquiry into the sugar industry was held.
1984 The ISA expired.
1985 A record low of US 2.50c/lb was recorded on world free market sugar prices. Qunaba Mill (Bundaberg) closed.
1986 The Queensland Government, New South Wales Government and Commonwealth Government agreed on a three year sugar industry assistance/restructure package. Goondi Mill (Innisfail) closed.
1987 Rationalisation of the sugar industry began. The Mackay Sugar Co-operative Limited was formed.
1988 North Eton Mill (Mackay) closed. Australian raw sugar production reached a record of 3.68 million tonnes 94 net titre.The Australian Sugar Producers Association (ASPA) is renamed the Australian Cane Farmers Association (ACFA) after the milling division of ASPA left to form the Australian Sugar Milling Council (ASMC).
1989 The Commonwealth/Queensland Sugar Agreement lapsed on July 1 1989. The embargo on sugar imports was lifted and a tariff was put in place. The Senate Standing Committee inquired into tariff levels on future sugar imports. Harwood Refinery (NSW) was built. Australian raw sugar first exported to Egypt.
1990 Cattle Creek Mill (Mackay) closed. The Queensland State Sugar Industry Working Party was formed and recommendations were handed down in June. The Sugar Research and Development Corporation was formed to co-ordinate research within the sugar industry.
1991 Glanville refinery (Adelaide) closed. The Tariff was reduced from $115.00 to 76.00 per tonne by the Commonwealth Government. An Industry Commission into the production, institutional and regulatory arrangements in the sugar industry was established. The Queensland Sugar Corporation was established on 15 July under the Sugar Industry Act 1991. Sugar Industry Tribunal and Sugar Industry Policy Council held inaugural meetings. Severe drought reduced Queensland sugar cane crops to the lowest level in 15 years.
1992 Hambledon Mill (Cairns) closed. Industry Commission report finalised. The main finding of the report is that ‘the regulatory controls applying to the production and marketing of raw sugar in Queensland’ are the major factor reducing efficiency of the Australian sugar industry. Sugar Industry Task Force established by the Federal Minister for Primary Industries & Energy. Australian raw sugar first exported to Taiwan and Bulgaria.
1993 Raw sugar production over four million tonnes for the first time. The Sugar Industry Task Force reported to the Federal Minister for Primary Industries and Energy. A joint Commonwealth/State Sugar Industry Package was announced with assistance of up to AUD20 million. Of this, AUD19 million is allocated to Queensland projects and the balance to New South Wales projects. The Queensland Sugar Corporation submitted a review on the distribution of proceeds of vested sugar to the Queensland Minister for Primary Industries. Australian raw sugar first exported to South Africa.
1994 Racecourse Refinery (Mackay) commenced operations and exported first cargo to Sri Lanka. Australia became the world’s largest exporter of raw sugar. Queensland’s Sugar Industry Act 1991 is amended, making some changes to pool prices paid to sugar mill owners in subsequent years and providing for quality standards to be set by the Queensland Sugar Corporation.
1995 Australian raw sugar first exported to Dubai, Philippines, Slovenia and Vietnam. Plane Creek Mill commenced operations producing VLC Sugar. World’s largest shipment of raw sugar loaded at Townsville Bulk Sugar Terminal – 61,300 tonnes. Council of Australian Governments reaches agreement on an ambitious plan to enhance competition in Australia, designated as the National Competition Policy. This has a significant effect upon all agricultural industries. To meet its obligations, the Queensland Government establishes the Sugar Industry
Review Working Party (SIRWP) to review the Sugar Industry Act 1991 and import tariff on sugar.
1996 Australian raw sugar first exported to Indonesia, Mexico and Saudi Arabia. 100 millionth tonne of raw sugar received through the bulk sugar terminal network (Bundaberg). Major review of the sugar industry and tariff completed by Sugar Industry Review Working Party (SIRWP).SIRWP reports in November 1996, concluding that the Queensland Sugar Industry Act 1991 restricts competition in a variety of ways. Over 70 recommendations are made by the SIRWP review.
1997 Sugar Industry Review Working Party recommended removal of the tariff from 1 July. Tableland Mill commenced construction.
1998 Sugar Terminals Limited is established as a special purpose vehicle to transfer the beneficial interests in Queensland’s bulk sugar terminals and long-term leases to the growers and millers, who actually pay for them through deductions from sugar pool prices.
1999 New Sugar Industry Act is passed (effective 1 Jan 2000). Qld Cane Growers Council (QCGC) loses its compulsory levy capacity. QCGC must form a replacement corporation Qld Cane Growers Organisation (QCGO) and transfer QCGC “Brisbane” assets to it.
2000 Sugar Industry Amendment Act 2000 establishes Queensland Sugar Limited to replace the Queensland Sugar Corporation.
2002 Independent assessment of the sugar industry (the Hildebrand Report) is released by the Australian Government Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry.
2003 Sugar Industry Guidance Group is established to prepare an overarching Industry Reform Plan.
2004 The Queensland Sugar Industry Reform Act 2004 partially deregulates the industry to dismantle statutory cane production areas and permits sugarcane growers to enter supply contracts with the mill of their choice. It also provides for exemption of the compulsory vesting powers when raw sugar is used for specified alternatives, such as ethanol and direct consumption.
The Sugar Industry Guidance Group draft industry report is released.
2005 The Queensland Government repeals the vesting powers of Queensland Sugar Limited (effective from 1 January 2006) and deregulates the marketing of Queensland’s raw sugar exports.
2006 Mourilyan Mill closes due to damage from Cyclone Larry.
2009 Pleystowe Mill closes.
2010 QLD Government introduction new legislation, Reef Regulations, impaction on cane farmers.
CSR Ltd sell Sucrogen Ltd to Wilmar International for a cost of $1.75 billion.
Maryborough Sugar Factory purchases Mulgrave Mill and Bundaberg Sugar’s FNQ mills.
2011 COFCO purchases Tully Sugar Ltd.
Babinda Mill closes.
Wilmar purchases Proserpine Mill.
2012 Mackay Sugar purchases Mossman Mill.
Cane farmers and sugar millers vote on the formation of Sugar Research Australia (SRA) in Sugar Poll.
2013 Wind up of SRDC and BSES as SRA (Sugar Research Australia) is formed.
Source: Qld Sugar Corporation; Qld Sugar Limited; Sugar Industry Oversight Group Strategic Vision 2006