History Of The
Australian Peanut Industry

Peanuts have been grown in Australia since the 1860s but only became a commercial crop in the early 20th Century.

At first they were mainly grown by Chinese immigrants for domestic use, especially during the Palmer River goldrush in North Queensland.

Although there is one report of "ground nuts" being grown by a farmer in the Condamine region in 1861 no serious attempts were made to grow peanuts commercially in Queensland until the early 20th century.

The first peanut farmers in the Kingaroy District included Samuel Long who planted three acres near present-day Corndale in 1901. (Information from Ralph Magnussen)

B.J. Johansen planted a crop in about 1915 beside what is now the Bunya Highway.

Brothers Ben and Harry Young, of Memerambi, are widely regarded as the pioneers of the South Burnett peanut industry. The sons of a Chinese immigrant, Ah Young, they planted their first crop in 1919. Harry Young subsequently designed the first peanut thresher in Queensland and Ben became a director of the Peanut Marketing Board (PMB - now known as the Peanut Company of Australia).

PMB started operations with a shelling machine in a small barn at Crawford, north of Kingaroy, owned by William Muir, the first secretary of the Board.

The operation later moved to the Kingaroy railway yards and then to PCA's current location.

Initially there were two major production areas developed in Queensland - the Burnett and the Atherton Tableland regions - however peanuts are now also being grown successfully at Katherine in the Northern Territory and have been grown in the Ord River area of Western Australia.

In 2000 there were about 400 growers across Australia producing about 55,000 tonnes of peanuts. More than 95 per cent of Australia's peanut crop is still grown in Queensland.

Kingaroy peanut farmers in the 1920s
Peanut farmers photographed near
Kingaroy in the 1920s. Most farms had
very little mechanisation at that time
Sorting peanuts at Kingaroy in the 1920s
Sorting peanuts at the Peanut Marketing
Board in the 1920s. The peanut industry
still is a major employer in the area
[Information adapted from "Landscapes of Change" by Dr Tony Matthews; historic photographs supplied by the Kingaroy Bicentennial Heritage Museum]


Industry Timeline

The timeline below provides a quick overview of the history of the Australian peanut industry and the Peanut Company of Australia.
Peanuts first grown in Australia
Peanuts first grown in South Burnett area of Queensland
Brothers Harry and Ben Young plant their first peanut crop at Memerambi
Fledgling industry receives a boost after NSW company Marrickville Margarine (later known as ETA) installs machinery to extract peanut oil for use in margarine manufacture
Marrickville Margarine purchases entire Burnett peanut crop
Peanut Marketing Board forms, with W.M. Wheatley as chairman, at the request of Queensland growers to acquire the crop and market it on their behalf
An affiliated body, Queensland Peanut Growers Co-operative Association Ltd, forms to assist with the handling, storage and marketing of the crop
3000 ton peanut silo opens in Kingaroy (started 1928 - built at a cost of £55,000)
PMB establishes depot on Atherton Tableland
Additional 4600 ton silo & plant built in Kingaroy (£62,000)
Original wooden silo destroyed by a fire started accidentally in the lunchroom
Introduction of seed protectants
Commencement of deliveries in bulk, replacing the storage of bagged Farmers' Stock peanuts
Fungicides such as Bravo introduced to control foliar damage
Irrigation as a management practice to improve yields per hectare and quality starts to become widely adopted
Peanut Marketing Board restructures into a public company, PMB Australia Ltd
New superior cultivars such as Streeton, Florunner and NC7 are being grown extensively
Name changes to the Peanut Company of Australia Ltd
PCA opens 3000 tonne cold storage and packaging facility in Kingaroy
$1.76m PCA Innovation and Technical Centre opens in Kingaroy
PCA commences the adoption of a comprehensive Water Management Strategy to increase irrigation production
PCA purchases 11,700ha property near Katherine in the Northern Territory
Building the first Kingaroy peanut silos in 1928
Work on building the first peanut silo
started in Kingaroy in 1928. The silo cost
£55,000 and took a year to construct
Forms used to construct concrete silos at Kingaroy
Construction of the concrete silos
began in 1938. These buildings still
dominate Kingaroy's skyline today
A 1951 fire destroyed the original wooden silo
The original wooden silo was
destroyed by fire in 1951


Other Historic Articles Of Interest


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