Sugar cane is the basis of an important Australian Industry - the Sugar Industry. Sugar cane is a giant member of the grass family. When it is ready to cut, it is between 2 and 4 metres high. Each stem, or cane is 30 to 40 millimetres thick. Sugar is made from juice which the sugar cane plant makes and stores in its stalks, which are packed with tough fibres. These fibres give strength to the cane. This giant grass is grown along Australia's north-eastern coast from Mossman in far North Queensland to Grafton in northern New South Wales. Approximately 95% of Australia's sugar cane is grown in Queensland.
Sugar cane probably grew as a wild plant in New Guinea. Australia's first sugar cane was brought from the Cape of Good Hope by the First Fleet in 1788. It would not grow at Sydney or Port Macquarie, but it grew on Norfolk Island. The first successful sugar cane crops in Australia were grown by Captain Louis Hope. In 1862, he grew 8 heactares of sugar cane near Brisbane. He was helped by John Buhot who came from the West Indies and knew how to grow sugar. Captain Hope opened Australia's first raw sugar mill at Ormiston near Brisbane in 1865. By the end of 1867, there were 800 hectares of sugar cane in the Brisbane District. As sugar cane growing spread further north, mills were built at Maryborough and Mackay in 1866, Bundaberg in 1872 and Cairns in 1882. Sugar cane was also grown in northern New South Wales. Raw sugar is Australia's second largest export crop with total sales of approximately $2 billion each year.