Cane and Labour: The Political Economy of the Queensland Sugar Industry, 1862-1906

By Adrian Graves | Go to book overview

2
The Economic and Political Foundations of the Central Milling System

The reconstruction of Queensland sugar production in the late nineteenth century was a response to severe constraints upon the industry's ability to realise surplus under the system of plantation production. The inefficiency of plantation production limited the industry's growth and development. This structural impediment was overlayed by a range of other checks, including rising costs of labour and other factor costs, an erratic supply of capital, commodity price instability and marketing difficulties. These conditions of pervasive profitability constraint became critical as the industry was plunged into the deep depression of the mid 1880s following the collapse of the international sugar market. At this point the industry experienced a major crisis of capital accumulation. As in other sugar economies, the Queensland industry sought a solution to its problems by reconstructing on the basis of the central milling system. Not only did the state and the planters appreciate the importance of this -- so also did the Colony's cane farmers. Their success in mobilising the state to attain their objective of a cane market less controlled by big mill owners contributed to the significant development of co-operative central mills during the period of reconstruction. 1


THE EFFICIENCY OF PLANTATION PRODUCTION

A conspicuous feature of sugar production in Queensland throughout the nineteenth century was its relatively low cane sugar yields. Data assembled in Table 1 (p. 236) suggest that before 1884 the average sugar yield exceeded 1.5 tons of sugar manufactured per acre of cane crushed in only three years, 1874, 1877 and 1879. The average

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Cane and Labour: The Political Economy of the Queensland Sugar Industry, 1862-1906
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Illustrations ix
  • Tables x
  • Preface xi
  • Notes xii
  • Acknowledgements xiv
  • Notes xvi
  • Abbreviations xvii
  • Introduction 1
  • Notes 5
  • 1 - The Rise of Plantation Production, 1862-1889 8
  • Notes 20
  • 2 - The Economic and Political Foundations of the Central Milling System 23
  • Notes 48
  • 3 - Reconstruction and the Abolition of the Labour Trade 1890-1906 57
  • Notes 69
  • 4 - The Material Life of Pacific Island Labour in the Queensland Sugar Industry 74
  • Notes 102
  • 5 - The Plantation 111
  • Conclusion 131
  • Notes 133
  • 6 - The State and the Control of Pacific Islanders in Queensland 138
  • Notes 150
  • 7 - Social Control 154
  • Notes 184
  • 8 - Worker Resistance 192
  • 9 - Conclusion 218
  • Notes 226
  • Appendix 228
  • Notes 235
  • Select Bibliography 251
  • Index 271
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