Sugar Mills

Sugar Mills in Australia

Overview

Australia’s 24 raw sugar mills are large, self-contained factories situated close to the farms which supply them with sugar cane.

Until 2006, all raw sugar produced in Queensland is acquired by and vested in Queensland Sugar Limited which markets the sugar to domestic and export customers.

The crushing season generally lasts about 22 weeks although some mills crush their available crop in less than 20 weeks and expansion will mean that in some areas, season lengths may increase.

Most of the sugar mills operate under continuous crushing arrangements, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, during the crushing season.

Continuous crushing proves a better utilisation of harvesting, transport and milling capital. Whether continuous crushing or not, the daily operations are on a three-shift, 24 hour crushing basis.

A typical Queensland sugar mill is equipped to crush cane at a rate of more than 500 tonnes per hour and crushes about 1.45 million tonnes of cane per season compared with about 195,000 tonnes per season in 1950.

Australia has some of the most efficient and technologically advanced sugar mills in the world. Some of Australia’s manufacturing companies export machinery and mill technology to other sugar producing countries.

Queensland Sugar Limited operates a quality management scheme on behalf of the industry to ensure that raw sugar produced by mills meets customers’ requirements.

The quality and efficiency of the raw sugar production process have been assisted through improved milling technology and government and non-government research.

Some sugar mills also produce raw sugar suitable for home consumption or manufacturers’ use, called “direct consumption” raw sugar. Their production process conforms with health regulations governing the production and handling of food for human consumption.

Wilmar-owned Victoria Mill
Mackay Sugar-owned Racecourse Mill

Mill Ownership

Mill ownership became more concentrated during the 1980s and 1990s. In 1980, 19 companies operated 33 sugar mills. In 1997, 12 companies operated Australia’s 29 sugar mills, not including the Tableland Mill which commenced crushing in 1998. In 2012, 9 Companies operated 24 sugar mills

The state-wide rationalisation of Queensland’s sugar milling and transport operations in recent years resulted in the closure of the Qunaba, Goondi, North Eton, Cattle Creek and Hambledon sugar mills. The cane lands assigned to those mills were reassigned to adjoining mills.

Ownership of Australia's Sugar Mills

Public Companies

MSF Sugar limited
  • Tableland Mill
  • Mulgrave Mill
  • South Johnstone Mill
  • Maryborough Mill

Owned by Mitr Pohl.

Tully Sugar Limited
  • Tully Mill

Owned by COFCO, through its Australian subsidiary Top Glory (Australia) Pty Ltd.

Wilmar International Ltd
  • Victoria Mill
  • Macknade Mill
  • Invicta Mill
  • Pioneer Mill
  • Kalamia Mill
  • Inkerman Mill
  • Proserpine Mill
  • Plane Creek Mill
Bundaberg Sugar Limited
  • Bingera Mill
  • Millaquin Mill

Owned by Finasucre

Public Unlisted Companies

Mackay Sugar Limited
  • Farleigh Mill
  • Racecourse Mill
  • Marian Mill
  • Mossman Mill

Co-Operatives

Sunshine Sugar Co-operative Ltd
  • Condong Mill
  • Broadwater Mill
  • Harwood Mill

Private Companies

W H Heck & Sons Pty Ltd
  • Rocky Point Mill

Other Entities

Sugar North Limited, a network organization comprising the independent grower-controlled mills in North Queensland, Mossman and Mulgrave, as well as the publicly owned Tully Mill, was formed in 1993 to ensure the long-term viability of sugar production in far North Queensland. This was disbanded in the early 2000’s. Sugar cane must be milled as soon as possible, but within 16 hours of harvesting, to minimise deterioration. For this reason it is important that the cane farms are in close proximity to the sugar mills they supply./animate_this]

Transport

Mill owners have made a substantial capital investment in cane railway networks and rolling stock. To ensure the prompt delivery of cane to the mills. Australian mills own and operate a network of 4,190 kilometers of narrow-gauge cane railways. In the 1996 season, 95 percent of the record cane crop was transported to sugar mills using railways. Six mills in Australia use road transport systems exclusively and several use a combination of road and rail transport.

The installation of a computerized animated cane transport scheduling system has enabled cane movements between the farms and mills to be monitored. Using computer images, all cane bins can be located on the tracks to ensure they are moved quickly and efficiently. This process assists millers in operating an efficient cane transport system and reduces cane delays.