Tobacco in North-Eastern Victoria
Under Governor Lachlan Macquarie, an experiment to grow tobacco is undertaken on Emu Plains, Colony of New South Wales. The experiment is largely unsuccessful.
Tobacco farming commences In the Hunter River Valley.
158,000 lb of tobacco produced from 380 acres in New South Wales.
First tobacco cultivation in N.E. Victoria on the Ovens & King River flats, at Wangaratta and in the Buckland Valley, by Chinese, Americans and Europeans who had arrived during the Victorian Gold Rush.
Tobacco factories (incl. Samuel Norton) established in Wangaratta.
Tobacco production commenced by Chinese in King Valley.
Boost to local tobacco production due to impact of American Civil War.
Simple growing methods feature single-furrow ploughing, single hand transplanting and watering from kerosene tins carried on bamboo poles. Curing methods involve hanging whole plants in long sheds for air drying.
Tobacco growing at Mulwala and Leneva.
Chinese, then Europeans, commence tobacco cultivation in Buffalo River Valley.
Europeans growing tobacco with Chinese share farmer labour at Markwood (J. Henley), Everton (H. Kneebone and H.A. Crawford) and Gapsted (Rae Bros.)
Chinese commence tobacco farming at Eurobin.
Victorian government considers a state monopoly for marketing tobacco.
Growers protest against doubling of State Excise Duty from 6d. to 11d.per lb (11c/kg - 20c/kg)
Grower numbers reach 32 in Myrtleford district.
“Scientific curing” commences in King Valley at the Government Experimental Station, Edi. Old Chinese curing methods considered inferior. Curing by heat convection had commenced at Whorouly (Barker Bros.) in 1892.
Mechanical planters are introduced in Ovens Valley.
A “Modern” kiln, curing leaf in an enclosed structure at regulated temperature, first used by Rae Bros. at Gapsted.
First involvement of Italian migrants in tobacco cultivation at Eurobin and Gapsted. Kilns using flue-curing are now widespread.
The Scullen Labour Government increases Commonwealth tariff on imported leaf by100%, stimulating local production.
Great Depression brings widespread unemployment and expansion in tobacco acreage to 11,000 acres (4,500 ha).
Introduction of American flue-cured varieties.
90% of N.E. tobacco crop destroyed in February frosts.
Excessive rainfall causes widespread outbreak of Blue Mould disease. Seedlings from then on were raised as far away as Pomonal, Gunbower, Cohuna, and Cobram to avoid the disease.
Catastrophic fall in number of tobacco growers from 1,317 to 165 due to climatic conditions, falls in tobacco prices and preference for American leaf by manufacturers.
Crop yield falls by half and inexperienced growers on marginal soils leave the industry.
Commonwealth Local Leaf Content Scheme is introduced, supporting growers by requiring manufacturers to use a specified amount of local leaf: 7.5% (1936), 28.5% (1960) and 57% (1977).
Sown area expands again with onset of World War 2, tobacco growing a “vital industry”. Under wartime regulation, prices are fixed by a Commonwealth Tobacco Marketing Board across 21 grades.
New varieties suitable for Australian conditions developed.
Benzyl-seedbed fumigation introduced to control Blue Mould.
Improved flue-curing of leaf introduced.
On-farm sales of tobacco replaced by open auction system; 11 manufacturers participate in the new system.
Area planted to tobacco across Victoria has fallen to 1/12th of the 1932 cropped area.
Establishment of Victorian Tobacco Research Station on 140 acres (57ha) at Ovens.
Areas under production, employment and prices grow strongly across the decade. In the Ovens Valley, a bumper 1958-59 crop on 3,700 acres (1,500ha) produces 2,000 tonnes for 220 farmers.
1950 – 1979 saw the commencement of a major influx of Italian, Spanish and Yugoslav migrants to labour and share-farm on tobacco farms, with many eventually becoming owner-growers.
Overproduction occurs, due to boom conditions during the past decade and expansion on to less suitable land for high quality leaf.
Approx. 2,000t of tobacco leaf unsold.
Of 1,025 tobacco growers in Victoria, 793 are Italian-born (Census, 1961)
Introduction of the Tobacco Industry Stabilization Plan. The Plan established the Australian Tobacco Board (oversight of tariffs) and the Tobacco Leaf Marketing Board (control of production through quotas and sole marketing authority for growers).
The “Golden Years of Tobacco” - the result of increasing mechanization, improved pest and disease control, orderly marketing,new bulk curing methods, alternative curing fuels and stable prices.
Government cutbacks to tobacco research commence; research on alternative crops commences at Ovens Research Station.
Government buy-back of crop quotas also commences.
The Victorian Tobacco Leaf Industry Deregulation Act, built upon a $3m grant, leads to 1/3 of farmers (69) to relinquish their quotas in marginal growing areas (1.5m kg) and import tariffs are set at zero. It also relocates a green leaf threshing plant and sales auction floor to Myrtleford from Braybrook (Angie Rigoni Tobacco Sales Centre and ownership of the plant to the Tobacco Co-operative of Victoria Ltd. Shareholdings in TCV determine the amount produced by each grower; amount produced per share established at the start of each growing season, in contract negotiations with manufacturers.
Threshing plant operational at start of 1996 season: TCV threshing under contract to manufacturers.
Atherton Tablelands (Mareeba, Qld) growers accept buy-out of industry in their state.
Australian tobacco production ceases, when a majority of the 143 TCV shareholders accept the Commonwealth Government and industry pay-out on October 26. At that time, growers were producing 4m kg of tobacco, with a farm gate value of $26-27m. Manufacturers had brought down the Australian content of their cigarette production from 57% to 12% in 2005-06. British American Tobacco and Philip Morris Ltd had been warning that Australian tobacco was too expensive and of insufficient quality to compete with imported product from Brazil, China, India and east African countries
This Timeline was prepared by the Myrtleford & District Historical Society Inc.