Agriculture & Industry


THE northern Tableland has a long history as one of Queensland and Australia’s most important and productive food bowls. Farming on the Tableland began in the late 1920s as immigrants flocked to Mareeba and Dimbulah to begin tobacco plantations. In 1958, the industry boomed following the construction of Tinaroo Dam, funded by $12 million from the state government. In 2004 the last remnants of tobacco farming in the region ground to a halt following changes in legislation. During this time many farmers diversified to survive. The region now grows avocados, mangoes, lychees, longans, sugar cane, cashews, macadamias, pineapples, tea tree, coffee, and a variety of vegetables and tropical fruits. Farming remains a cornerstone of the Tableland economy and looms as a key area as demand for food worldwide is expected to increase dramatically. The region is ideal for farming with its temperate climate, reliable water supply and availability of good quality agricultural land. Despite the industries sustained success it faces challenges of restricted transport routes, rising input costs for water, electricity and fertilizers and uncertainty about the Commonwealth Government’s carbon tax.
 

Sugar

The sugar cane industry on the Tableland is in the midst of a boom with record prices for the past two years, the Tableland Mill undergoing a $42 million upgrade and more growers entering the industry. There are 89 farms that supply sugar cane to the Tableland Mill for a total crush of about 700,000 tonnes. On May 11, 2012, MSF Sugar, owned by Thai sugar giant Mitr Phol, signed off on the upgrade of the Tableland Mill which includes a “back end”, or crystallisation plant, as well as infrastructure that will increase the mills processing capacity from 185 tonnes per hour to 250. The back end will allow the Tableland Mill to convert sugar syrup into raw sugar on site rather than sending the syrup to coastal mills. The upgrade, project managed by Bundaberg Walkers Engineering, is expected to be completed by May 2013. MSF Sugar has also called expressions of interest for an additional 500 hectares of new Cane Production Area to boost production to 750,000 tonnes a year. Australia is one of the world's largest exporters of raw sugar, with Queensland exporting about 80 to 85 percent of its total raw sugar production and almost 100 percent of raw sugar exports originate in Queensland. Total sales of Queensland raw sugar is around $2 billion annually.


 

Coffee

Mareeba is the premier coffee growing region in Australia. The Mareeba district is home to a number of major plantations including Skybury Coffee Plantation, Howe Farms, Jaques Australian Coffee Plantation, Tichum Creek Coffee Mareeba, Domingo Coffee and North Queensland Gold Coffee Plantation. Most of the regions plantations supplement their farming enterprises with tourism ventures. Skybury Coffee Plantation produces about 100 tonnes of coffee a year on a 360 acre property which also is used to grow bananas [50,000 cartons a year], limes and pawpaws [2000 tonnes a year]. The “diverse tropical farm” also has a restaurant which overlooks the property and offers guided tours. Jaques Australian Coffee Plantation, on the eastern side of Mareeba, is in the midst of a major expansion of their business. In the next two years they will boost the number of coffee trees to 85,000 and increase production from 25 tonnes a year to a maximum of 85 tonnes. They also offer tours of the plantation including flights in a micro-lite plane and gyrocopter and have a cafe. A trip to Mareeba isn’t complete without sampling a cup of coffee direct from the source.

 

Mangoes

Mangoes are harvested from September to March with the peak of the season being from November to January. With the ideal climatic conditions. There are about 600 mango farms on the Tableland.