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 - Copyright Tweed Shire Council

Applying fertiliser to young cane, draught horse pulling fertiliser bin controlled by man.

Tweed Regional Museum Collection. No: TH178-19

As the supply of easily won cedar on the Tweed River dwindled in the 1860s, and the costs of obtaining and shipping it multiplied, settlers turned to farming the rich alluvial soil as an alternative source of income. But they were hampered by the poor communications on the Tweed and the difficult bar at the mouth of the river, the cause of lengthy shipping delays. The settlers had already been growing maize as a substitute for flour when they were unable to obtain supplies due to shipping delays, but it was not suitable as a commercial crop. They could not rely on getting their produce to market, and when ships were delayed, the maize was left to rot on the banks of the river. After experimentation with a variety of crops such as coffee, tobacco, cotton, millet and even opium, sugar emerged as the most suitable crop.

The first experiments in growing sugar cane in the Tweed Valley were carried out around 1869 by two early settlers in the district, Joshua Bray at Kynnumboon near the present town of Murwillumbah and Michael Guilfoyle at Cudgen. The sugar story is entwined with that of the South Sea Islanders and Indian migrants, who played a significant part in the sugar industry in New South Wales.

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Last Updated: 18 October 2013