The Northern Rivers sugar industry accounts for $230 million of regional economic output. Total direct and indirect employment in the region is estimated at 2,200; which includes 450 mill and refinery employees and 600 cane farmers.
Sugar is grown on local farms and harvested by a farmers co-operative, which is then delivered to the Mills for processing. The NSW Sugar Milling Co-operative operates 3 mills; at Condong on the Tweed River, Boardwater on the Richmond River and Harwood on the Clarence River. The Co-op also runs a sugar refinery which supplies 25% of the Australian domestic sugar market. The Co-op also supplies molasses for a range of uses both domestically and overseas as well as “clean” energy.
Good regional infrastructure of road and rail links supports the industry, while the Mill’s southern location means it enjoys a comparative advantage over Queensland as a supplier to the southern regions. The local sugar cane industry is well represented through peak bodies such as the Co-op and the NSW Cane Growers Association.
Additionally, a Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) for Sustainable Sugar provides some Research & Development for the industry. Whilst the local Southern Cross University is not involved in the CRC, it does conduct some acid sulphate research.