Mulgrave Mill was constructed on the current site in 1895 and commenced crushing in 1896 processing 13,753 tonnes of cane in its first year of operation. The mill was established as a grower owned co-operative and maintained this status until mid 2008 when the company came under the ownership of The Maryborough Sugar Factory Limited now MSF Sugar Limited. Since 2012, Mulgrave Mill has been owned by Thai based Mitr Phol Group, one of the world's five largest sugar milling companies.
Located at Gordonvale, 25km south of Cairns, Mulgrave Mill produces and exports about 160,000 tonnes of raw sugar annually. Each year sugar cane is supplied from around 200 farming entities with an average farm size of around 6,000 tonnes.
Each year during the crushing season (around 21-23 weeks) commencing in mid June through to mid November, cane is gathered from a 13,000 hectare area which produces approximately 1.0m to 1.1m tonnes of cane. The area is serviced by 18 harvesting contractors cutting an average of 55,000 tonnes and transported by a cane railway network extending over 256 kilometres.
The Mulgrave district was the first to adopt green cane harvesting in 1983 which increased rapidly to over 90% by 1990. All cane is now harvested green leaving a trash blanket which acts as a weed suppressant and assists with moisture retention.
The area has a range of soil types which influence growing practices and cane variety selection. The crop is rain fed with an average rainfall of 1800-2000 mm per year.
Raw Sugar produced at Mulgrave Mill is exported through the bulk sugar terminal at Cairns, one of Queensland's many purpose built storage terminals for raw sugar exports.
The Mulgrave River was explored by G.E. Dalrymple in 1873 when significant stands of valuable timbers including cedar and pine were located. This timber which attracted many settlers to the area was however depleted within a few years. Land was cleared for agriculture and planted with crops including rice, maize, bananas and citrus which were marketed through the fledgling settlement of Cairns.
Sugar production in the Cairns district began in 1882. The first sugar mill to be established was "Pioneer", erected in 1881 by Walkers Limited, and located about five kilometres on the Gordonvale side of Cairns. The mill was owned and managed by the Hop Wah Company.
In 1882, "Hambledon Mill" was founded by Swallow and Derham and subsequently sold to the Colonial Sugar Refining Company (C.S.R. Ltd) in 1897, which operated it until its closure in 1991.
In 1883, J.B.Loridan built the "Pyramid Mill" on the banks of the Mulgrave River several kilometres upstream from the present site of Mulgrave Mill. By the end of the decade, both the "Pioneer" and "Pyramid" mills ceased to operate due to difficulties in obtaining cheap labour and the low sugar price prevailing at the time.
With the closure of both of these factories, there must be great admiration for the courage and determination of the Mulgrave settlers who, in 1893, decided to take the initial steps in establishing the present Mulgrave Mill. In this year, the Government of the Colony of Queensland passed the Sugar Works Guarantee Act to allow the establishment of a further number of central mills. The Mulgrave Central Mill Company Limited was the first company registered under the Act, with a nominal capital of £40,000.
The factory was supplied and erected by A.W. Smith & Company of Glasgow, Scotland, with construction commencing in 1895. The first cane was crushed in 1896. In its first crushing season, Mulgrave processed 13,753 tonnes of cane yielding 1,395 tonnes of sugar. The Company's net profit for its first year of operation was disclosed at £2,313/14/-, thereby justifying the passing of the "Sugar Works Guarantee Act (1893)".
The past century has seen many trials and tribulations for the company which have been overcome by the commitment of the directors, management and employees to the benefit of the cane growers, the local community and to the industry generally.
In March 1929, the Queensland Society of Sugar Cane Technologists (now the ASSCT) was formed with W.F. Seymour Howe, then General Manager of Mulgrave Mill, as the first President and Norman Bennett as first Hon. General Secretary. These two men were the driving force responsible for the inauguration of the Society. Mulgrave personnel have continued to support the principles of the ASSCT.
Mulgrave Mill was the first mill in the State to adopt green cane harvesting and trash blanketing to reduce growing costs. This percentage in green cane harvesting increased rapidly from 15% in 1983 to over 80% by 1990 to 100% by the year 2000.
In 1987 Mulgrave Mill became the first mill to extend a bagasse fired boiler. The 113 tonne No.7 boiler was extended by adding another 68 tonnes capacity.
The current NIR cane analysis system was developed at Mulgrave Mill beginning in 1996. Since then the NIR has been extended to include online monitoring of milling train performance including an NIR unit on the final mill. A cane quality incentive scheme based on NIR measurements of cane constituents was introduced in 2001 and has resulted in a significant improvement in the quality of cane supplied to the mill.
During the 1990s, Mulgrave personnel pioneered a number of developments for optimisation of evaporators and pans which included:
- EDTA chemical cleaning
- Online evaporator performance monitoring; and
- Improved direct contact condenser designs.
This trend continued into the 2000s, with Mulgrave personnel undertaking work in a number of areas, including:
- Application of electrical conductivity methods for sugar pol analysis;
- Development of rapid true purity assessment using electrical conductivity methods;
- Development of rapid estimation of assessment by purity adjustment of refractometer brix; and
- Evaluation of lead free juice analysis.
Over the years, increases in cane tonnages to be processed were matched by progressive development of the processing capacity of the factory plant and its corresponding cane railway infrastructure.
In 1991, CSR's Hambledon Mill closed and the crop previously processed there was directed to Mulgrave. The following year a crop of 1,327,981 tonnes was processed.
The company continues to meet the challenges of the future. In 2006 it withdrew from the single desk sugar selling arrangements, undertaking the marketing of its own sugar, and developing its own customer relationships.
In 2008 the company became a fully owned subsidiary of The Maryborough Sugar Factory Limited now MSF Sugar Limited. In 2012 the MSF Sugar Limited Group was 100% acquired by Mitr Phol Sugar Corp Ltd.
Mill History Timeline
||Construction of Mulgrave Mill commenced.|
|1896||Mulgrave Mill commenced operations as a Grower owned co-operative crushing 13,753 tonnes of cane yielding 1,395 tonnes of sugar.|
|1964||Mulgrave Mill Crushed 500,000 tonnes of cane|
|1991||Hambledon Mill at Edmonton was established in 1881 and closed in 1991 with the cane being transferred to Mulgrave Mill for crushing. Hambledon Growers became shareholders of the Grower owned co-operative at Mulgrave.|
|1992||Mulgrave commenced continuous crushing operations as a result of the closure of Hambledon Mill, crushing 1,327,981 tonnes of cane.|
|1996||Mulgrave Mill celebrated it's Centenary after processing cane for 100 consecutive years.|
|2001||Mulgrave Mill became the first mill to introduce a Cane Quality Program. This was based on the commitment to develop and subsequent outcomes of NIR technologies which were largely developed by Mulgrave in partnership with BSES Limited.|
|2006||Mulgrave Mill in partnership with Mossman Central Mill Company Limited undertook the direct marketing of its raw sugar production and commenced exporting to international customers.|
|2008||Mulgrave became a fully owned subsidiary of the Maryborough Sugar Factory (now MSF Sugar Limited). This transitioned the ownership of Mulgrave change from a Grower owned co-operative to a subsidiary of a company publicly listed on the ASX.|
|2010||Joint venture with MSF Sugar Limited and Bundaberg Sugar Ltd.|
|2012||MSF Sugar Limited acquired 100% by Mitr Phol Sugar Corp Ltd.|