story of Maffra's sugar industry begins in the early 1890s. Although
there had been other minor attempts to establish sugar production from
beets in Victoria from as early as 1866, the local effort was by far the
Sugar Beet Company was registered in 1896, with capital of £70,000.
Building of the factory commenced in the following year
and was completed
in 1898. The Colony's first 500 tons of sugar were
refined that year.
drought seriously affected production and the Company was unable to continue
profitably, so the Victorian Government took over the factory in 1899.
It was kept in 'mothballs' until 1910, when the industry was revived
following a report from a Dr Walter Maxwell.
To ensure a
continual supply of raw material, the Government
insisted that each farm on the newly developed Closer Settlement schemes
in Boisdale and Kilmany had to grow a specified quantity of beet, originally
ten acres. Despite another severe drought in 1914-15, the factory
showed its first of many profits in 1917.
irrigation scheme was commenced in 1919 on the Macalister River, initially
to provide water for the beet farmers. It was only later that this
same water supply became so important to our dairy industry.
industry flourished for the next twenty years. In 1925 the factory
was actually upgraded and expanded in anticipation. The peak production
occurred in the 1939/40 season.
World War II
eventually brought about the end of the industry as the essential labour
force was taken away. Dairying had become far more profitable and
farmers post-war were reluctant to re-engage in the more difficult and
less rewarding beet growing.
finally closed in 1948; the machinery was auctioned off in 1953; the main
building was demolished in 1964.
All that remains
is a large brick store beside the Sale Road railway crossing
and the wooden office, which has been moved about 1km from its original
site to become the main part of the Sugar Beet Museum complex.
For a more detailed
history of the Beet Industry in Maffra see The Beet Sugar Industry 1894 to
1948 which may be ordered
from the Society.
courtesy of the Maffra
top to bottom:
Beet Factory c1926
beets in the paddock
beets at the factory
Page modified 25/01/2012