​​​​​Department of Agriculture and Water Resources, December 2017

These fact sheets provide current information about how the Australian Government is supporting the agriculture, fisheries and water sectors, and are available for download.


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Sugar fact sheet PDF 2577 KB

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The sugarcane industry is one of Australia’s largest and most important rural industries, employing about 16,000 people across the growing, harvesting, milling and transport sectors.

More than 80% of all sugar produced in Australia is exported as bulk raw sugar. Australia was the world’s second-largest raw sugar exporter in 2017, exporting mainly to Asian markets. The Republic of Korea is Australia’s largest export destination for sugar.

In 2015–16 sugar was Australia’s sixth-biggest agricultural export, contributing almost $2 billion in export income.

Building a stronger sugar industry

The Australian Government is driving a more profitable, resilient and sustainable sugar sector by:

  • introducing a mandatory code of conduct for the sugar industry in 2017 to support cane growers dealing with sugarcane mills
  • investing $30.8 million under the Agricultural Competitiveness White Paper to increase access to premium markets—including 5 extra agricultural counsellors working on the ground in our overseas markets to negotiate access and tackle technical barriers to trade
  • securing agreement from Indonesia to reduce tariffs on Australian raw sugar imports—this lowers the tariff to the same concessional rate as Thailand, currently around 5%
  • securing the elimination of the Korean tariff on Australian sugar to help build on our position as the largest sugar supplier to the Korean market
  • providing dollar-for-dollar matching funds of $7.1 million in 2016–17, alongside the funding already invested by the sector through levies, for research and development (R&D) to advance the sugar sector
  • providing funding through the Rural R&D for Profit program for a range of innovative projects to improve productivity and profitability, including almost $3.1 million to develop and demonstrate a range of innovative technologies to convert waste from the sugar, forest, cotton and port industries into new value-added animal feeds, chemicals and advanced fuels
  • investing $50 million over 4 years for tools, technologies and skills to tackle pest animals and weeds across Australia
  • implementing a comprehensive foreign investment framework for agriculture to improve transparency and give the community and investors confidence in our foreign investment arrangements
  • introducing legislation to establish an ‘effects test’ in national competition law to protect small businesses from the impact of anti-competitive conduct by large, counterparty businesses.

Key Facts

  • Sugar is Australia’s 15th-biggest agricultural sector in terms of gross value of production.
  • The Australian sugar industry comprises around 4,000 cane-growing businesses, 24 sugar mills, 8 milling companies and 3 sugar refiners.
  • In 2016–17 Australia had 4,600 sugarcane farms—88% of these were in Queensland and the remainder in New South Wales.
  • Irrigation is important for around 60% of Queensland’s sugarcane production.
  • Sugar mills fuel their own energy needs using the sugar by-product bagasse and return around half the energy produced to the grid—reducing greenhouse emissions by more than 1.5 million tonnes annually.

Export markets for sugar, 2015–16

Share of world sugar exports by volume, 2016–17

CountryShare (%)

Source: International Sugar Organization

Further information

General inquiry 1800 900 090
GPO Box 858, Canberra ACT 2601 ​

Last reviewed: 4 November 2019
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