An Independent Queensland Regional & Rural
AUSTRALIA'S SUGAR INDUSTRY
Australian Sugar Industry has developed a world reputation for:
Australia's second largest export crop and Queensland's largest rural commodity,
sugar is a major contributor to the Australian economy.
sugar is produced from sugar cane in three of the Australian states,
approximately 94.2 percent in Queensland, 5.1 percent in New South Wales and 0.7
percent in Western Australia. There are currently 26 raw sugar mills in
Queensland (including one mill that processes sugar cane to syrup stage only), 3
in New South Wales and 1 in Western Australia.
is currently one of the world's largest exporters of raw sugar, with Queensland
exporting about 80 to 85 percent of its total raw sugar production. Almost 100
percent of raw sugar exports originate in Queensland. Total sales of Queensland
raw sugar are around $2 billion annually.
also exports refined sugar. Currently there are four sugar refineries in
Australia, 2 in Queensland (Mackay & Bundaberg), 1 in New South Wales
(Harwood), and 1 in Victoria (Melbourne).
sugarcane is grown on coastal plains and river valleys along 2100 km of the
eastern coastline between Mossman in Far North Queensland and Grafton in the
northern part of the adjoining State of New South Wales (NSW). A small industry
in the Ord River region of the State of Western Australia had its first full
season in 1996.
has over 545,000 hectares (ha) devoted to cane growing. Sugarcane area in
Queensland has increased by over 40% since 1988 and now exceeds 508,000 ha cane
fields represent 20% of Queensland's total crop area. Most cane is grown within
80 km of the coast, mainly in high rainfall areas and based on numerous river
sugar industry underpins the economic prosperity of many coastal communities.
rainfall (or stored water for irrigation) is vital to productive and profitable
cane growing. Sugarcane accounts for over 40% of water users in Queensland. Some
66% of cane growers have some form of irrigation. Irrigation is essential for
crop growth in the Burdekin and Atherton Tableland districts (and in the Ord in
WA) and is used on a supplementary basis in other cane growing districts.
In the 1997 season Australia produced 5.74 million tonnes (Mt) of raw sugar from 41 Mt of sugarcane harvested from 419,915 ha. Of this, Queensland producers accounted for 5.4 Mt of sugar crushed from 38.1 Mt of cane harvested off 397,512 ha. Australia's average cane production was 98 t/ha and sugar production was 13.75 t/ha.
mills each crushed over one million tonnes of cane. Mill throughput ranged from
3.81 Mt of cane at Victoria Mill to 402,600 tonnes at Australia's only privately
owned mill at Rocky Point. Nearly 65% of the Queensland crop was harvested without
burning and green harvesting. Queensland sugar mill owners own operate and
maintain 4100 km of narrow gauge (610 mm) railway, over which 94% of total cane
production is transported to 23 mills.
1998 the first new sugar mill to be built in Queensland in over 70 years began
crushing cane on the Atherton Tablelands, inland from Cairns. Since 1985, six
Queensland mills have closed - Qunaba (1985), Goondi (1987), North Eton (1988),
Cattle Creek (1989), Hambledon (1991) and Nambour (2003). Cooperative (grower-owned) entities
own 12 of Australia's sugar mills.
Size of most cane farms are from 30 to 120 hectares. The average Queensland cane farm in 1997 produced 5840 tonnes of sugarcane. Most are owned and operated by family farmers. Sugar mill owners produce less than 2.5% of cane output.
Map of the Australian Sugar Industry
FOR ETHANOL AND FERMENTATION PRODUCTS
recognises that sugar cane, the crop with one of the highest rates of conversion
of sunlight into biomass, will always play a major role as a feedstock in any
future industry based on fermentation of biomass.
based on sugar cane that produces ETHANOL and other fermentation products has the
potential to provide the Australian community with a number of benefits.
CANEGROWERS recognises an industry that includes in its product mix ETHANOL
other fermentation products will reduce our reliance on the world sugar market
and, potentially, stabilise industry income and reduce industry price risk.
In order to
reduce the industry’s exposure to the world sugar price, CANEGROWERS therefore
adopts as its target that, in the future, a significant proportion of the income
stream from sugar cane growing should come from ethanol and fermentation
In order to
achieve this objective, CANEGROWERS will support:
CANEGROWERS further recognises that ETHANOL and other fermentation industries may play a strategic part in the industry product mix by allowing the use of genetically modified feedstock for products that do not enter the food chain, until such time as these products gain community acceptance.
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Written and Authorised by Selwyn Johnston, Cairns FNQ 4870