Fred Perren

Interview with: Fred Perren
Date of Interview: 16 April 1985
Interviewer: Valarie Poole
Transcriber: Colwyn Boulton

 

Fred's family had been sugar farmers in the local area for generations. Fred grew up in the Nambour and Perwillowen area in the early 1900s. He talks about school, farming, social life and WWII.

Image: Perren family Cricket team, 1925.

 

Audio

Fred Perren oral history - part one [MP3 30MB]
Fred Perren oral history - part two [MP3 30MB]
Fred Perren oral history - part three [MP3 38MB]

Transcript

Family background

VP: Fred, I'd like to talk about your family's involvement in the sugar cane industry. I think an appropriate place to start would be when your great grandfather, William Perren, his wife and seven children migrated to Queensland in 1874. Where did they settle and what type of work did they find?

PERREN: Well, my great grandfather and his family came out on a sailing ship. They settled at Hemmant, just south of Brisbane. They worked for a few years for a Mr Gibson on a sugar farm. They become interested in the sugar naturally and wanted to make a new start in a new land. So they heard of the sugar industry up in the Nambour district. Two of the elder brothers, William and Charles, came up ahead of their father and the family.

VP: William, that was your grandfather?

PERREN: William was my grandfather.

VP: How old was he then?

PERREN: Well I don't know. He was a marriageable age because he married Ellen Pitt in Brisbane before they came up here.

VP: How did they come up to Nambour?

PERREN: They came up by paddle steamer up to Maroochydore and then by rowboat up Petrie Creek. They took up a selection of two hundred and fifty acres on the southern side of Petrie Creek just below Nambour.

VP: Did they start growing cane there?

PERREN: They started growing cane straight away, but there was no sale for it at that time because the Moreton Central Sugar Mill - well it wasn't named Moreton Central in those days, they weren’t established. I think they more or less tried out the sugar growing, but their main crops were potatoes and corn in those days. They were loaded on little rowboats and taken down to Maroochydore, those crops, and put on the steamer for sale in Brisbane markets. My dad can remember sitting up at night shelling corn to put in sacks to row down Petrie Creek to load it on paddle steamers at Maroochydore.

VP: And when was your father born?

PERREN: My father was born in Nambour on November the 25th, 1882.

VP: Was he born at home?

PERREN: I would presume so. They had their midwives around in those days that helped the mothers.

VP: And where did he live?

PERREN: I have photos in front of me now of the day my father started school in 1887. A Provisional School was built up on the hills at Rosemount, that’s just south of Nambour. It was named Sylvania School - no connection with the present Sylvania School - but my dad started there in 1887. Looking through the photo. I’ve been told, and I can recognise that more than half of those thirty children were Perrens.

VP: When did your father leave school?

PERREN: I’m not quite sure, but I know that he had just left school in 1887, the year that the Mill (Moreton Central Sugar Mill) started crushing. He helped cut cane the first year that the Mill started.

Early sugar farming

VP: So your family really got involved in the sugar cane industry once the Mill got started?

PERREN: Oh yes, I have an "Agricultural Journal", dated the first of March 1898, where the DPI men from Brisbane came up and gave a description of the first year of the Mill’s operations. In that Journal it specially mentions cane of exceptional length, two years old, was received from Mr Charles Perren's farm.

VP: Did your father ever mention using Kanakas on the farm?

PERREN: No, I don’t think there were many Kanakas here in those days because my dad never mentioned it. Although I have an old "Agricultural Journal" here that describes the sugar industry and how they first started out towards Burnside and Perwillowen, how the line was built round the bends, and cut out and built up to where the present lookout is at Dulong. They mention there that in 1905 there were Russian Finns growing cane up there and that little town was named Finnbury. But in those days the line was only built up to the cliffs below the present Dulong lookout. They had to winch, drag it, (the cane) up to the top from the cane growing areas - mind you, it was all original scrub; all they had to do was fall it and burn it and the stumps would burn out - they’d haul it (the cane) up by wagon or slide, and let it down a flying fox, down a big steel rope, to be loaded into trucks on the tram - line below, about 450 feet.

VP: That would have been a feat in those days.

PERREN: About one to two hundredweights I believe was all they could let down at a time.

VP: Then Fred you were born in 1909. Do you know if you were born at home?

PERREN: No, I was born at Nurse Adam’s Hospital, Maud Street, Nambour.

VP: Where did you live first during your life?

PERREN: Well I don’t know exactly where Mum and Dad lived first after I was born, but it was a few years later they shifted out onto a cane farm or mixed farm at Perwillowen. Now that’s just under the cliffs where this tramline was built.

VP: Then you were telling me that you moved down towards Deepwater.

PERREN: Yes, well in July 1914 my dad had sold. He sold the farm to a chap by the name of Mr Burns and I can remember this. He had cleared a little bit of land down at Bli Bli on his mother-in-law’s farm and burnt it and dug holes for bananas. I can remember coming down on the back of a spring-cart load of banana suckers from Perwillowen to Bli Bli.

VP: What were the roads like then?

PERREN: Well the roads were terrific. I can remember coming down through Nambour from Perwillowen. Before we got to the tram -line we went down a gully and across a bridge and we went up around past the Station, the old Town Hall and down across an old rattly bridge at Petrie Creek and then over the Showground Hill. The present Showground, the road there is flat, cut right through. We had to get out and help push up over the top of the hill and down in another gully and up before you turn right to go to Bli Bli. I can remember distinctly going down through Currie Street past the now Commercial Hotel. It was that rutty that the cart was bumping sideways and going through the ruts, quite distinctly.

Farming at Deepwater

VP: Tell me about your farm at Deepwater. Was that a part of your grandfather’s original selection.

PERREN: No, we shifted down to Bli Bli in 1914 and then Dad enlisted for the War. I’m not quite sure when Dad did shift to Deepwater, but Dad enlisted and went to War. Only some foreign doctor injected meningitis into the soldiers at that time. Dad came home, he was rejected from the Army, came home a physical wreck about eight stone weight. Then as soon as he recovered and gained strength, he said, "I’m going to this War." And he went and enlisted again.

When he knew he was going, he had a house built on the bank of Petrie Creek at a place called Deepwater. Now Deepwater was a place where the Mill cane trains unloaded goods and passengers onto boats to go to Maroochydore. That was a far as the bigger boats could come and take on goods and passengers. The Mill had special carriages built with rails on them and seats across, so that we couldn’t fall out. In the early '20s I have seen 450 cases of sea mullet taken from the boats and put on the cane trains to be unloaded in Nambour onto carriages to go to Brisbane, to the Fish Market.

VP: Do you remember any of the names of the big boats that used to come up to Deepwater?

PERREN: Oh yes, the old "Hazeldean", built and owned by Mr Thomas O 'Connor the developed most of Maroochydore. Then when the Evanses came and started the boat runs, they had the big "Alexander" which had a decking on top. We used to like to get up there.

VP: Were they paddle steamers?

PERREN: No, they were motorboats.

VP: When your father came back from the War, did you grow cane on your property?

PERREN: Yes, Dad has selected I think it was about thirty acres adjoining Deepwater, which included some hillside and a lot of tea-tree swamp. Now when Dad came back from the War, he immediately got stuck in with the axe, put it that way, and brushed and felled about six acres of forest. That was in winter.

That was burnt and in September and October 1919, Dad started to plant sugar cane in that six acres, In those days it was all mattocked in. That meant you had to have the plants on the ground and you’d give three or four good hits with the mattock and put the plant in by hand and a little bit of dirt and put your foot on it and go onto the next one about a foot to fifteen inches away. But Dad had a way of doing things: he used to stick sticks in, line sticks up , white sticks or saplings, so's he could see where he was going. He was perfect on the job. He would even go over a log and plant exactly in line on the other side of it, or past a stump.

But in that October there was an epidemic of chicken pox in the school. My brothers and sisters got this disease and I was immune. I put about five or six weeks helping my dad drop these cane plants. He cut them on the side of the swamp, they were cut in about one foot lengths, usually with two eyes on them, and bagged.

VP: What does bagged mean?

PERREN: Put them into a sack bag. You’d get around about 250 plants in a sack bag. Get one of the plants and dive it in the corner and twist it round under the other corner, would close them all up. Well, in between where we lived and where we had the forest felled, was about two or three hundred yards of tea-tree, standing tea-tree, and those plants had to be got across. So he fell two tea-trees in line and made a bridge above the peat, and carried all those plants - now there’d be.... in six acres we’d plant about five or six thousand to the acre.

VP: How long would that take to plant?

PERREN: Oh he would plant on his best days over a thousand plants. So it’d take him quite a few weeks to get this done. Course my dropping plants helped him a little bit. But that’s my first experience in the sugar - dropping these cane plants in 1919.

VP: What sort of price did he get then for that crop in 1919?

PERREN: Well in those days sugar was a better proposition than it is today, fortunately. But after Dad planted that cane, we had a dry spell and the crop didn’t grow to well the first year.

He let it stand-over, which means two year old. Now, that was all cut in the leaf, cut green; you weren’t allowed to burn it those days. If a fire accidentally got away, the Mill would take it, but they’d put a penalty on it. But this was cut in the leaf, cut green, and loaded onto a tip -dray and carted down, of would be a mile and a half to the tramline at Deepwater, not far from where we lived. Then tipped - you’d pull a pin out, or a lever out, and the whole lot'd fall back off the dray - reloaded by hand onto the cane trucks on the Mill main tramline. Well, Dad cut 180 tons, it was the long tons in those days, and he got 421 pounds, which was a little fortune in those days, but mind you that took two and a half years to get that money.

VP: Because you lived on the river, did you learn how to swim and fish?

PERREN: Oh yes. All the time Dad was away at the War, we lived on the bank of the creek - it was fairly steep, high banks - and none of us could swim, not even Mum. She was always anxious of us, made us be good little boys and girls and keep away from that creek. But we used to get long bamboo sticks out of the scrub and tie a bit of string on the end and a little float, a little sinker and ‘Ned Kelly’ the bream and perch out of the creek. If we’d get a big eel on and brought that on the bank, we’d all run for our lives. But that’s the way we used to get fish. They were more plentiful those days I think than they are today.

But, yes, we learnt to swim when Dad came back. In the hot weather we swam quite a bit. There was a swimming club formed and they held their competitions at Deepwater. Names I can remember are the Prentices, Pringles, Sousarris - all learnt to swim there; they were the champion breaststroke and freestyle. Yes we had quite a lot of swimming there, but I never was a champion swimmer. I used to float along, come last.

VP: Do you remember any of the sugar cane being taken on the river in punts?

PERREN: Oh yes. While we were living at Deepwater, the cane was grown well down the creek and up the Bli Bli side and that cane was loaded onto trucks and taken onto a punt. I think the punt would take eight to ten trucks, if I remember rightly. That was taken down to the mouth of Petrie Creek and brought back to Deepwater. There was a ramp just beside where we lived where the tramline went down. The trucks would be hauled off the punt up the ramp onto the main line, all by horses.

VP: Who owned the horses?

Draught horses

PERREN:Oh privately owned horses, contractors. In one particular case they had a hand-winch which was much slower.

VP: What sort of horses did they have?

PERREN: Oh big draught-horses. Those big draught-horses were specially trained to start off a rake (a row) of trucks and grapple and struggle for the first few feet, then yards. Then they knew to get a move on. Those type of horses were very hard to break into ploughing and doing other hard work around the farm. They’d got the habit of grappling and tearing into it and it’s a proposition altogether, ploughing and scuffing. They were well trained.

If I can go head a few years: when they pulled them off the punts and what we call horse-lines around the place, they put in lighter lines where the locos couldn’t get. They’d have horse teams. Up at Dunethin Rock they’d bring them down to a central place; and down this side of Coolum Creek they’d bring them to a central place. Then contractors, private contractors, would come with their three big draughts and get them to start off these rakes. Of course the line wasn’t even - there’d be bits of grades - and the horses knew as soon as it got easy too start trotting and keep ahead and when they got a bit tireder they’d scrap again and keep them moving. They were well - trained.

VP: How long did they use the horses on the lines?

PERREN: Well they used them for quite a few years. When the Mill’s main line was put from Deepwater through the cutting a Bli Bli and taken over towards Maroochy River in 1936, they put a line through, a branch down to the river at the reserve where they ski now about a mile above the David Low Bridge. A Bli Bli man had the contract to have his two or three horses there to pull them off the punt. That saved taking them right around to Bli Bli and Deepwater, By that time there was hundreds of acres cleared and growing cane across the river.

VP: Was that the only bridge they put across the river for the trams?

PERREN: Yes. The growers the other side of the river, right from way down opposite the Picnic Point, Maroochydore, right up to Coolum Creek, they had their little portable lines into the river. Each farmer had his own little ramp into the river. A punt would call in there and get his trucks until they got their load. Now, this punt was worked with a motorboat. They didn’t have their own self-propulsion. A motorboat'd tie itself beside the punt and take it to these various little places and pick up their load and bring it back to this central point and there the horses would be ready to pull if off and take it to the Mill main tram-line.

VP: That’s the picnic area at Bli Bli?

PERREN: Yes. That was their main line after they got through Bli Bli. But previous to putting it through Bli Bli, the main line used to branch off about halfway between Nambour and Bli Bli and over the hills to Maroochy River and right out to Coolum. That was put through about 1905. My dad helped build a lot of that line.

Working in the cane

VP: Fred, can you tell me some of your first experiences in working and cutting cane yourself?

PERREN: Well that goes back a long way. I can remember one year we had a wet season and the Mill was running late. A grower just above Deepwater, not far from the bank of the Petrie Creek, had a lot of cane. It was early maturing - HQ285 I think they called it - early maturing. And this wasn’t early; this was late. This was about the end of January. I was only fifteen and there was several gangs had been asked to go and help. I went with my dad and a couple of others in one gang. We cut that cane green, up to our ankles in water. We worked through the rain, all, and of course naturally you’d get wet weather. If it wasn’t raining, you’d get wet cutting in that type. To keep us reasonably warm we used to cut a hole out of a sack bag for our heads and enough out of the side of it for our shoulders, for our arms. We’d cut and load all day in the one sack bag, wet through. Load it onto the trucks. Course in those days when you had cane tops and the cane wasn’t burned you could put tramline on that and it wouldn’t sink. You wouldn’t load the trucks very big. Then the farmers would have horses to pull them out, or we’d push them out if it was too wet for the horses. That’s how we got it out. That was my first experience cutting cane actually.

VP: That went by tram then?

PERREN: That was loaded onto the Mill main tram. It was funning through the property.

VP: How was that taken to the Mill? Was that drawn by horses?

Cane locomotives

PERREN: No, the Mill got their first trams about 1905.

VP: Were they hauled by the steam locomotives?

PERREN: They were hauled... the first one I think the Mill bought was called the "Moreton". Then they bought the "Shay", which was the big one, worked on cogs. It used to climb the ranges to Mapleton.

VP: The "Shay" was never used out this way on the flats?

PERREN: Oh occasionally they’d bring it out if the others broke down. Then they got another bigger one. It was called the "Maroochy".

VP: And it was a steam locomotive?

PERREN: They were all steam.

VP: Do you remember when the diesel locomotives came in?

PERREN: Oh yes. My Uncle Tom was one of their main loco drivers; that was one of Dad’s younger brothers. He was so interested in steam that he built his own steam engine at ten years of age.

VP: How long ago would that have been?

PERREN: Oh Uncle Tom died a couple of years ago, aged over ninety. That would be, well he would have been ten years old somewhere about the turn of the century. He could get a lot out of these steam trains. He used seemed to have a knack of knowing how to hold his steam and a certain amount of coal in and boiling at the proper time. He actually shed tears when the Moreton Mill told him that they were giving away steam to go into diesel. Then his son, Willie Perren, my full cousin, took over the diesels from his father.

Preparing new land

VP: Did you expand on to any other farms?

PERREN: Well it wasn’t a very big farm and Dad decided as we were growing older that we would like more land. So he had a look at a farm out on the Camp Flat Road, which was then owned by the late Mr William Whalley that had the store in Nambour. We decided to over there. We sold our farm to a Mr Stacey who had a few acres next door.

VP: How big was your new farm?

PERREN: Oh the new place was 160 acres.

VP: Was that cleared or was that still timbered?

PERREN: No, some of it had been cleared years before, but most of it was still standing forest. Some of it had been cleared, it had been neglected for a few years and the undergrowth had grown up. Of course we had to set in then and start clearing it and growing more sugar.

VP: You were still planting by the mattock?

PERREN: Yes we were still by the mattock in 1928. Dad and I brushed the eastern slope. There were so many box trees, big box trees in those days. They were real thick. No mill would take them, no sawmill; they wouldn’t look at box timber in those days. I only wish they were standing today, we'd make a fortune out of them. But no, they were thick and we fell them and in August of 1928 we waited for the appropriate time, just after midday, and lit a fire round this when the wind was just right. Burnt up all the small stuff. My dad was a great believer in what we call back burning.

VP: What is that?

PERREN: Back-burning is: if the wind is blowing say from the east, you start lighting on the west side. Let it back-burn. It’s a slower burn that burns up more material. You’ve got to pick the right time. Well we back-burned this and got a good fire and then what we call packing up. You get the axe and you chop up some of the stuff up to say six inches in diameter, stack it in heaps and burn it, so you’d only leaves bigger logs and the stumps to work around. Well there again we had to use the mattock. We had to carry the plants from the neighbours place, half a mile away, and there again we bagged them, put them in sugar bags and carried them across a little gully, dropped them again in four foot rows and mattocked them in. Thirty-three thousand cane plants were mattocked in. We had a good season, nice storms that come regular. Of course we had to use the chipping hoe a fair bit.

VP: That’s for the weeds?

PERREN: For the weeds. We couldn’t use a horse and scuffler.

VP: And did you fertilise in those days.

PERREN: No. That cane was never fertilised.

VP: How high would that grow?

PERREN: Well by Christmas time - being maiden soil- on the better parts of it we had four feet of sugar cane showing, actual cane showing by Christmas. We chipped it a couple of times and where we didn’t get - where there were trees and hot ash beds and around stumps where we didn’t plant sugar cane - we put tomatoes in. By Christmas time we had a wonderful crop of tomatoes, a little bit protected from the cane that had come up. Incidentally out of that 33,000 cane plants, we only got two plants that didn’t come up and they were put in hot ash; it burnt the eyes.

VP: What did you do with the tomatoes? Did you market them?

PERREN: Well we did. We had an old Ford truck by that time and we took them in and sold most of them to Mr Collins’ shop. Incidentally talking of Mr Collins, when we were living at Deepwater from 1914 to 1919, Mr Collins had a boat at what we call the ‘Boat Shed". That was about half way between Deepwater and Nambour where Prentices live now. There was Mr Collins, Mr Wainwright, Mr Whalley, that was three that I know of, they all had their boats. They’d tootle down to the ‘Boat Shed’ with their old Studebakers or Model-T’s or whatever they had, and they would come down the creek past our place to Maroochydore. I think Mr Whalley and Mr Collins had houses at Maroochydore at the time, because they’d spend the night there and come back. Mum did the packing. We made a few pounds on the side out of those, but that cane grew very well.

VP: What did you pack the tomatoes in? What sort of packaging did they have?

PERREN: Well we made our quarter cases. Bought the timber from the sawmills and made our own little what they call ‘quarter cases’. I’ve got no idea nowadays what they call them. But Mr Collins bought the majority of our tomatoes and sold a few locally, neighbours.

Cane harvest

VP: And that cane stayed there till the next year?

PERREN: That cane was cut the following year, in October, November. Because it was only twelve months old, we let it mature.

VP: How high was that at maturity?

PERREN: Oh that cane was cut green and it was a very, very good crop of cane. It stood erect. We loaded it onto the old Model-T truck. We made tracks through around the stumps and logs. We cut that by hand, green, and loaded it onto the old Model-T truck and took it out to the tramline.

VP: How far away was that?

PERREN: Oh three-quarters of a mile we had to take to down across the flat. We had to spend a bit of time filling up the ruts with stones, because there was no decent track out to the tramline. That was taken out and loaded by winch, endless chain winch, lifted up and put the cane trucks underneath it, and let it down onto these trucks. Funny thing, we didn’t have steel slings in those days, we used heavy rope.

VP: And this went underneath the cane of the back of the truck?

PERREN: Under the cane. We found out the rope stretched, we weren’t high enough with our top winch, we had to keep shortening our roes to get it high enough. But that cane grew very well. Now we didn’t want to break its back, so we only loaded up two or three feet high on it. We put two loads onto a truck, onto one of the cane trucks. We got word back from the Mill that we were overloading. There was up to four ton on some of these trucks of cane.

VP: And what’s the usual weight?

PERREN: Oh, thirty hundredweight to two ton was the average weight. The cane was heavy plant Demerara, the old D1135.

VP: What about burning the cane? You say you cut it green in the leaf stage there.

PERREN: We cut it green that year. But it was round about then I think that we were allowed to burn, because I can remember before we went over to Camp Flat, I cut cane in a gang with the late Mr Morris Nichols and others when I was sixteen, seventeen, eighteen years of age. The cane was burnt then. Because it was a smaller crop and too hard to cut green, we were allowed to burn it.

VP: How did the gangs like cutting it after it had been burnt?

PERREN: Oh, we could make a lot more money.

VP: It was a lot quicker?

PERREN: Yes.

VP: They didn’t mind getting dirty?

PERREN: Oh, all this talk about getting dirty, it amuses me, because you get dirty in lots of other jobs. Digging drains in the swamp was a dirty hard job. Cutting cane, it was hard on the back, especially if the cane was short, but in my early days I was taught to cut one or two sticks at a time, in green. Take the trash off it and put it into nice little bundles. When we came to burning it, some of the younger, stronger men put their arms right round the stool of cane and cut the whole lot off in a few swipes with a bent knife – put nearly a right-angle bend on their cane knife – and cut the whole stool down and throw that up against the other stool. They’d fall that stool on top of it. They go along with the big cane knife that was made out of an old cross-cut saw with an axe handle riveted onto it, and just chop the tops straight off in a straight line.

VP: That made it easier?

PERREN: It was easier and you can make tremendous money that way. But it left more extraneous matter on the cane, more tops and more mud on the bottom and of course the Mill started to get anxious about this. Took more treatment at the Mill to get this extraneous matter out and make pure sugar. When they first cut green in my dad’s young days, they had to take every bit of leaf off and cut it in the right place, very particular.

VP: What did the Mill do about it?

PERREN: There’s an Award put out of conditions of cane to be supplied and what condition and the weight of trucks and so forth, and the Mill was allowed to charge penalties if there was too much extraneous matter. Incidentally when we started burning cane, there was a shilling a ton less for burnt cane. I don’t know why. It was a bit harder. I think the cane went a bit sour quicker and the Mill had to treat it a little bit better. I think that was the reason for it.

VP: When you got your farm over at Camp Flat, that was almost the start of the Depression. How did you fare through that time period?

Cordwood

PERREN: Oh, they were very, very hard times. The Mill used to use what we call cordwood for their boilers. Seeing as we had a lot of spare timber on our farm, both dead stuff that had been ring-barked and green stuff, we cut a lot of cordwood for the Moreton Mill.

VP: What is cordwood?

PERREN: Cordwood? A cord of wood is, or was, eight foot long, four foot high and the ‘cordwood’ was four foot long; 8’ x 4’ x 4’ was a cord of wood. It had to be, I think nearly half of it, split out of bigger logs and it had to be stacked fairly well. Some unscrupulous fellows cut cordwood – rough old stuff and big stuff – and too hard for the Mill to handle and load onto trucks. The Mill had their special trucks made for cordwood that were slightly longer than the cane trucks.

VP: And they’d send the trucks down?

PERREN: They’d send the trucks out. Oh, what we used to do, we’d cart it out. By those times we had old trucks, Ford trucks and Chevs.We’d load it onto trucks and reload it beside the Mill tramline. We got paid for that cordwood stacked beside the Mill line. The cane inspector would come out with his tape, measure it up, and we’d get paid.

VP: And you did this during the Depression?

PERREN: We did that during the slack season in the Depression. Also sleepers – the Mill’s sleepers for the tramline had to be five feet long, at least eight inches wide by four inches deep. My Dad and I cut a lot of sleepers for the Mill with the broadaxe work.

VP: Did the cane industry itself feel the effects of the Depression?

PERREN: Oh yes. In 1933, may have been ’34, we only got about thirty inches of rain for the year and the cane was hardly worth cutting. That on top of the price coming down a bit at that time. We had to go out and do other jobs.

VP: Did the industry pick up again before the Second World War?

PERREN: Oh, it was always payable; it was all hard work and payable. But as things progressed, and after the War, there were big arguments in the industry as to what was a living area; course we got mechanised. Incidentally I brought the first Fordson Major on rubber in 1948.

VP: That’s a tractor?

PERREN: Tractor. Brought it from the Returned Soldier’s Garage in Nambour. The first tractor on rubber, Fordson Major. Until then I’d used horses. At one time I had four horses. Incidentally to go back to ’35, our property was on both sides of the Camp Flat Road. When we first went there in ’28, it was F.J. Perren (my father) and Son. I went in partnership with my dad.

VP: What was your father’s name?

PERREN: Frederick John.

VP: What’s your name?

PERREN: Frederick William James. After my father and two grandfathers. In 1935, the Depression, and money was scarce, I had to ask my father for a couple of shillings to go to Nambour. We weren’t paying off the farm too well so I said to Dad, "Look, I’ll go on my own." We dissolved partnership and I took one side of the road and Dad took the other side. So from 1935 I went on my own.

VP: Were you still sharing equipment?

PERREN: Well the equipment we had might have been a few chipping hoes and an axe and a horse and scuffler. But no, Dad took the horse and machinery. I had to buy horses on my own and start working on my own. I built a little iron shed and ‘batched’ for a few years.

Incidentally, 1935, just fifty years ago from the time this is being recorded, I first met my wife-to-be. After I’d worked this farm for a year or two and got a few pounds together in those days, I thought it was about time I put the question. We were married on the 18th June 1938. My wife’s father was a carpenter, lived across the creek at Rosemount.

VP: What was her maiden name?

PERREN: Her maiden name was Lovett, Joan Lovett. Her father came across and helped me build a house and we were married in’38. But there was a tremendous amount of work to be done. I only had fifteen acres of cane land taken on at that time. Course I had to grow other crops. I grew strawberries and a few beans and pineapples to keep the pot boiling.

World War II

VP: Then the next year the War broke out. Were you called up to go to the War?

PERREN: Yes. I was asked my reason and by that time my dad had lost an eye and my brother was called up and enlisted. So I asked for exemption and was granted exemption. But I joined the V.D.C., the Voluntary Defence Corps, and we spent quite a bit of time training how to keep the Japs back.

Talking of sugar cane, we were in the show pavilion one night with an Adjutant, training us how to shoulder arms and slope arms and bayonet, and by that time the Japs were getting pretty close. And he said, "Let the little ‘b’s come." He says, "They’ll come up here through your sugar cane farms. We’ll burn them. We want fertiliser." So the sugar might have come in handy.

VP: Did you have any trouble with petrol rationing?

PERREN: Yes we did. We had – what were they called? Tickets, ration tickets. Only allowed so much. But being in the industry, we were allowed a little bit extra at times when we needed it for the sugar harvesting.

VP: Did anyone go back to using their drays or slides and horses during that rationing time?

PERREN: Not that I remember. Although there weren’t many vehicles, diesel or petrol engines about at that time. No, there was still a fair bit of horse work done, but I don’t think we ever felt the scarcity of petrol that could have arisen at the time. I know our own old private vehicles we had to be careful what we used there.

VP: And what about manpower shortage? Did you have any trouble getting cutters when most of the men were away?

PERREN: Oh immediately after the War we had a lot of trouble. We had a lot of Europeans come out and we had to supply barracks for them. We had to supply barracks and get them firewood, bedding and see that they got groceries, meat, bread.

VP: This was for the cane cutters? Are there any barracks still around this area?

PERREN: Yes, there are still barracks. We have a barracks on our home farm out at Camp Flat there and we had removed an old house from further over and we went to pull up the floor and we found it was Crow Ash. So we sawed down the middle of this floor and pulled it across the flat by tractor, on big skids so we wouldn’t damage it. And it’s back there today with a Crow Ash floor.

VP: That’s the floor of the barracks?

PERREN: The floor of the barracks. Had to supply them with a stove and wood, look after them. We had to supply them with cane knives and files. They’d leave the files out in the wet to rust, and try and bend the cane knives like they saw other people doing and break them, instead of heating them up with a blowlamp and gradually. No, they were all difficult times and as I said I diversified during the War with a few pineapples and beans and strawberries. But as we progressed, I’d gradually cleared…It was interesting work. I’d get up early in the morning, have a cup of tea, go out and cut a truck of cane. Come back and have breakfast, feed the horses, milk a couple of cows.

VP: This is the horses you were using for the cane?

PERREN: At the time, yes. Right up till I brought the tractor in 1948.

VP: And you carted to the tramline with the horses?

PERREN: I had four horses at one time. My first means of transport was a slide. They were about twelve inches by two inches. That’s six foot long pieces of timber with steel runners put underneath them, about three feet apart they were, and a couple of good pieces bolted and stayed across, little "D’s" on the side where you put your stanchion in and load that up with cane. The horse would take that down to the tramline.

VP: And how did you put that onto the cane train?

PERREN: Well we had pullies and hand-winches. I developed a little bit and got the idea of putting the horses on the bottom pulley and let them walk out while the bundle went up and have the long reins to let them back when I put the cane truck underneath.

Cane disease

VP: What about diseases? I know in the Second World War there was Fiji disease. Was that very prevalent?

PERREN: That was cruel. I had quite a few acres of the POJ 2878, a Java cane, used to be called the "Java Wonder". It had big notches on it, big eyes, and bit of hair around it, used to worry us when we were loading it. But that developed the Fiji disease and I eventually had to plough out, destroy quite a few acres of POJ on account of the Fiji disease.

VP: How did the Fiji disease affect the cane?

PERREN: Well, it’s a virus disease that was spread by a hopper; a little grasshopper gets into the succulent leaves of the cane and they wither and form little galls in the leaves and eventually stunts the crop. It’s strange. You see one big stool of cane, six or seven feet of cane on it, then you’d see a couple of smaller stools. Even today they’re still finding Fiji disease in NCO210. It’s still about.

VP: Were there many people had Fiji disease in this area and lost cane?

PERREN: Yes, there were quite a few acres. But talking about diseases, long before this we got a disease called gumming disease. That was very prevalent in the old Demerara and Q50 variety. When you cut the cane, little bundles of gum would come on it and the stool would die out. We had to get rid of those varieties that were susceptible to gumming disease.

VP: About when was that? Do you remember?

PERREN: Well that would be – that was prevalent in the late 20s, that disease.

VP: And what about fertilisers? Do you have to use fertilisers now? Do you remember when you first started having to use them?

PERREN: Oh yes, we’ve got to use quite a bit of fertiliser. I’ve heard people say that you only need the ground to stand the cane up in. Incidentally this cane we planted in 1928, a lot of that was good soil and on a nice good slope, probably three acres of it. We took the biggest stumps out of there later on and put the horse and scuffler through that.

VP: What’s a scuffler?

PERREN: A scuffler was an implement with handles on and a wheel, with a frame built with little legs on it that scratch along the soil.

VP: Like fingers?

PERREN: Like fingers that scratch along the soil. You could put what we call duck feet that spread out or a straighter tine that just made a scratch mark.

VP: How many fingers or tines would you put on?

PERREN: Oh if you put duck feet on, you’d only want four or five. If you put the narrow ones on you’d put – say they were spread out in sort of a "v" that covered between the two rows – you’d put up to eight or ten on if they were just narrow ones. We did this on some of that old land and we got ten crops, ten ratoons of it.

VP: That’s out of the one stool?

PERREN: Out of the one original planting. Of course nowadays you’d never do that, you’d get three or four. On some of the good soils nowadays you’d go for a few more.

Mechanical harvesting

PERREN: Well it’s very costly to take your cane out, leave it fallow, and get a green crop in and ready for the next year to plant. So if you could get another couple of ratoons out of that ground, out of that one planting, all the better, because you can cut your stool away with discs and culters nowadays, narrow your stool up and still get your good shoots on the side and build up a stool.

VP: Do you remember when you got your first mechanical harvester?

PERREN: The first mechanical harvester we got was a Wholestalk that cut the stalk down and run up an elevator and dropped into bundles. I just can’t recall when that would be, but my sons had come up and joined Perren and Sons then.

VP: This was after the Second World War?

PERREN: Oh yes, it’d be into the 50s. The sons were very keen on getting into mechanical harvesting.

VP: How many children do you have?

PERREN: I had four sons. The two eldest have got their trades and gone down to Brisbane to work. And the younger two I gave them the option of staying on the farm on a sort of a working basis, with an option of purchase. Well, after the three years there was another farm came up for sale, so we decided to form Perren and Sons and we bought this other farm.

VP: When was this?

PERREN: I have it on record somewhere. Well the boys purchased their shares in 1965 and we brought a J150 Wholestalk Harvester.

VP: Was this a good machine?

PERREN: Yes, that was very good. The only trouble was if you grew heavy crops and lying down you couldn’t top it. But otherwise in straight cane it was real good. It topped it and cut the cane off and it came up an elevator and dropped in a bin that was working hydraulically. You could leave it in bundles beside your row every half-chain or so. Then we had a loader – hydraulic loader – that would grab these bundles up and put them on the cane truck.

VP: The loader worked off the tractor?

PERREN: The loader was worked off an old Nuffield tractor. We’ve still got that today and find very good use. We made a digging bucket for it, with three or four different size digging buckets to dig our drains, but this loader was a big seven foot wide with prongs on it that would hydraulically come together and lift up the bundles, and put them on the cane trucks. They were put on cane trucks on portable that was laid down the middle of your land and then we’d take it away to the Mill main line.

VP: With those portable cane lines, do you pull them up in between the seasons?

PERREN: They were very handy. They were in four to the chain, about sixteen-foot lengths with five sleepers on them and two men could stand in those and take them around. You’d burn eighteen or twenty rows and put the portable down the middle. Then you’d load from both sides onto this portable. Next day you’d burn another land and you’d carry the portable across and put it down there. That was the main way years ago.

VP: At the end of the season did the Mill pick all these up, or did you just stack them up alongside your cane areas so that you could plough and get ready for next season?

PERREN: No, we would take it out to our central place where we would stack it up. Most farmers bought their own. The Mill had a lot out at the River Store and if you wanted a few extra chain you could ask them to bring out a few extra chain, if you didn't have enough of your own. But most farmers had their own. We would stack it and spray it with oil. We’ve still got a big stack down beside the tramline on our farm today.

VP: Do you still use them?

PERREN: No, we don’t use it.

VP: Are they still used?

PERREN: They are used in various ways now. A lot of it was sold to cattle stations out West to make cattle yards. You see, on the top side they’re very smooth and they were welded around cattle yards. My sons have taken the sleepers off and put them closer together and use them for beams in sheds. I saw a shed at Cairns a few years ago, a big fern house, made entirely out of portable tramlines.

VP: Do you still use that harvester that you bought then in 1965?

PERREN: No, then the chopper harvester came in and my sons traded it in for a chopper harvester – the Massey Ferguson 120.

By that time I’d got my third son into the partnership, got him up from Brisbane. He was a fitter and turner and we did all our own repairs in our own shed and made all our own implements at that time.

VP: I guess these harvesters are much faster than the way you used to do it forty years ago?

PERREN: Well, you could say it was faster than we did it sixty years ago, since I started cutting cane. Yes, it is faster. With mechanical harvesting of course, you get more extraneous matter in it. You can’t top it and cut it as clean as even the Wholestalk did.

VP: With the chopper harvester, do you have to burn it to use it, or is it a green stalk harvester?

PERREN: Well there are green stalk harvesters available up North and several farmers have been harvesting green for years and years. The harvester that’s going to cut on our farms this year will be able to cut some of it green. See, some of the cane has a free-falling trash. When it’s matured, trash falls off easily. Others sticks tight to it. We will cut a lot of our cane this year, I presume, green.

VP: The type that hold onto the stalk, they’re the ones you’ll have to burn?

PERREN: We’ll have to burn a few of the varieties.

VP: Fred, had there been any improvements in the way you plant the cane over the years?

PERREN: Well my word there has been. I can remember when I first started to help Dad to plant cane, we used to take every little bit of trash off the eyes and cut it into pieces with two eyes on it and when you planted it you’d put it in by hand that you’d have the eyes on the side so they wouldn’t be obstructed. Nowadays it’s put in by machine, trash and all. We used to employ people to take the trash off. Sometimes we’d cut it down and leave it in bundles or have it brought to the farm by trucks or slide and tipped off. Then we would trash it, what we call in the stalk. Sometimes we would take the trash off the cane while it was standing. We used to rivet a little bit of rubber tyre either side of a stick about an inch wide, put it in the harvester, drag it down and take all the trash off.

But some years ago we used to employ – the women used to like doing this – taking the trash off the cane. The joke used to go around that we paid women to strip in the cane. I can recall when my young son Ken was talking to some people one day, he made up a little riddle. He said, "Why is the sugar industry the most attractive to tourists?" There were no answers given, so Ken came out with, "Well, we send our cane to the Mill topless and we pay women to strip." Yes, the women used to earn quite a few shillings in those days, stripping in the cane.

Accidents

VP: Do you remember any accidents in the field or with your machinery over the years?

PERREN: Oh yes, there’s been accidents. The most common accident was cutting your feet with the cane knife. I’ve seen several toes slashed. We used to use the Mill saw-files to sharpen our cane knives. And accidents with portable – people carrying portable and trip or slip. I’ve seen the back of their shins all skinned from the steel sleepers, slid down. Oh yes, there’s been quite a few. Oh loading, climbing up the ladders, little five feet ladders, climbing up with your cane to drop on the truck. In the field, I’ve seen them fall backwards with a load of cane on top of them.

VP: And what about the cane trains or on the trams, were there any accidents with the locomotives or cane trucks?

PERREN: Well I could give you some stories about that. On our farm at Camp Flat Road, the Mill tramline used to come through there and go over the hills and pick up the line again about half way to Nambour. To digress just a little, it wasn’t until 1936 that the line was put through Bli Bli to Maroochy River, through a deep cutting. But previous to that it used to come over, and on our farm the loco used to bring up to one hundred cane trucks and leave them on our flat; take them up the hill up there – they’d put them in the siding. I have seen, oh quite a few times, where the couplings were broken and the rake had come back down the hill. Capsized all over the place.

VP: The rake would be a number of cane trucks?

PERREN: Trucks of cane that’s broken away from up near the engine. The Mill invented some various ways of trying to avoid this. They hung a big piece of steel over the back axle that if ever it broke away this would dig into the soil, into the sleepers, the middle of the line, and tip the truck off before it got too much of a run on. But we own the farm at the bottom of the hill and when we cleared it we found quite a lot of steel beside the tramline on both sides where these trucks had come back and crashed into the rake down below.

VP: With the tramlines going through the area, I guess this had played a major part in opening up the Coast with transportation?

PERREN: Oh my word it has. About 1905 – I think it was about then – my father helped put the tramline over the hill, from Prentices, halfway to Nambour, over the hill to Camp Flat and out to Coolum. Now for many years that was the only way you could get to Coolum, other than by boat to Coolum Creek, then across a few gullies. But they had a little shed built, I don’t know whether it was the Council or the Mill, built a little shed right beside the line near the Club Hotel in Nambour. The various shops – butchers, bakers, grocers – would bring their goods there in sugar bags with this label on – so and so, and so and so, and the Mill employed men to put them on their carriages and deliver them, especially towards Coolum. That was the way Coolum was served for many years.

VP: The cane train lines were also used as passenger trains?

PERREN: That is right. Yes, passengers. I can remember when Dad was away at the war, Mum let my elder sister and myself go to a Christmas Eve party, at Nambour, by tram. We were supposed to get off at Prentices and wait till the tram got back from Coolum, but we didn’t. We stayed on the tram and went over this route, over bends and gullies out to Coolum. We got into hot water when Mum found we’d gone over on that treacherous run. But they had a couple of their bridges curved over gorges.

VP: That must have been a feat to make those.

PERREN: That was a feat in those days, yes.

Mill Suppliers Committee

VP: Now Fred, you told me you served two separate terms on the Moreton Mill suppliers Committee. Could you tell me just what function that committee served?

PERREN: Well the district was split up into five or six different areas. Each area had what they call a Mill Suppliers Association, and they had their delegates to a Mill Suppliers Committee. I was elected a delegate. I spent two terms of three years each. It was more or less a Council that brought the various problems of the growers together and consulted with – we had a Local Board, and a Central board that manages things in Brisbane – and put forth ideas to the Cane Growers’ Council. Twice during my career, I’ve been a delegate from this Committee, the Moreton Mill Committee, to the Cane Growers Council in Brisbane Annual Conference.

VP: This is the Queensland Growers?

PERREN: Q.C.G.C. – Queensland Cane Growers Council. I was also a delegate when they had the last Council Annual Conference outside Cairns.

VP: They were normally held in Brisbane?

PERREN: No, they held them in the various places – Mackay, Bundaberg, the bigger growing areas. But the last one they had outside of Brisbane was at Cairns in 1961. They’ve had them all in Brisbane, excepting one recently. They had a Golden Jubilee or something and they went up to the country areas.

VP: You spent ten years as Secretary and five years as Chairman in the Bli Bli Cane Growers Association. Can you remember what years that spanned?

PERREN: Well I know I had a young family and it took a lot of time. In those days we used to order cane knives, files, from Bundaberg – I’ve been up there quite a few times when I was Secretary getting my utility full of cane knives and files – and used to order lucerne chaff for the horses from a chappie at Laidley. So it was quite a big job then and we were a non-profit organisation. I got a little honorarium. They were rather strenuous days, but I liked doing it.

VP: What was the main function of the Committee?

PERREN: Oh, the main function of the Committee in my day, was looking after our own growers in Bli Bli – we had about sixty or seventy and today there are only about twenty or so, farms have got bigger, growing more cane – and keeping the minutes correspondence, and keeping in touch with the Committee and general secretarial work.

VP: If you had any grievances with the Mill, would your Committee take this up?

PERREN: We would take it to our Central Committee in Nambour and they would take it up through the Local Board or through the Central Board to the Mill. But over the years we got on pretty well with the Mill. My dad left school in 1897 to cut cane the first year the Mill started. He remembers all the early Mill Managers, and I, following on, knew the Mill Managers in my day, and my son now is Secretary of the Bli Bli Cane Growers Association.

VP: Which one’s that?

PERREN: That’s Ken, and he is very friendly with the Mill Manager, Graham Coleman. I think it’s the way growers and millers should cooperate. Although when we go to the board, we have our differences and each one is put; it’s arbitrated. No, the only regrets I have nowadays probably is that the industry’s on the downgrade a little bit and not very encouraging to the young ones coming on.

Sugar industry problems

VP: Is this the worst depression time you’ve seen in the sugar industry?

PERREN: Well actually that’s very hard to say. I came through the Depression years of the late 20s and 30s and money was very, very scarce in those days. Although the sugar industry is depressed today, money doesn’t seem to be the problem. There’s money around. I don’t want to sound pessimistic, but if this keeps on, with prices depressed for another couple of years, it could have serious effects on the district as a whole.

VP: Do you see any solution for picking up the industry? Is there anything that could be done?

PERREN: Well, we’ve come through bad times before and we’ve held on and it’s picked up. I have great hopes that this will come about again. Probably it will be a little bit longer this time before things pick up again. There’s not much in the line of diversification that cane growers can enter into now.

VP: Do you think there’s anything that could be done either by the government or the cane growers themselves to help pick the industry up?

PERREN: That’s a hard question. As I’ve said we’d have a job to diversify. We could grow pastures and grow stock, but there’s a glut in there. I just read in the papers recently that ethanol’s going to be too expensive to divert to petrol. But our trouble is that we export about eighty percent of our Australian production.

VP: We’re relying on the world market?

PERREN: We’ve relied on the world market.

VP: How many acres of cane do you and your sons own now? Have you got larger to cope with the prices, or with just the general run of things when you get bigger machinery, you just have to get bigger farms to keep profitable?

PERREN: I’m glad you asked that question, ‘How many acres?’. It’s all in hectares nowadays. About twenty years ago, we were told we’d have to get bigger or get out. That’s why I got my third son up and brought another property. Yes, I’ve gradually bought properties around me to try and get bigger. Of course, with expensive machinery, you’ve got to make it earn its money. About six or seven years ago we brought another farm down opposite Coolum Creek on the Maroochy River. It’s a big farm, good river flats and tea-tree flats. We would be about the fourth biggest growers in the district now.

But at the moment the price of our product is less than the cost of production. No matter how much you’ve got in reserve, it’s hard to hang on in those conditions. There are some growers that’s sitting all right, but their reserves will go down. The main problem is those who have been well advised, I’d say well advised, to expand over the last few years. We find this happening more in the North than it is in our district. More or less forced to expand and borrow money. Now the prices had come down, they find themselves in dire straits financially. The remedy in my book would be to underwrite the product to what the farmer can produce it, plus - well we don’t want much profit even to the cost of production, I think we’ll hang out for a few years till things do brighten up. But if you want a wider view of it, the EEC - European Economic community - they are subsidising their beet growers about one hundred percent, so they can keep their farmers viable. They are prepared to sell that sugar on the world market at a greatly reduced price, and we have to compete against that.

I want it known that the Australian sugar growers are the most efficient in the world. This has been proved time and time again. People think we have a slack season. Yes, you could call it a slack season – there are a few months in the year when there is no pressing work but the ordinary farmer that has his drains to clean, his machinery to repair, there’s not much slack for him. Then of course he works about fourteen or fifteen hours a day in the cane season. There is a move now to try and reduce our working time and our working costs and I believe it can be done. My sons are working out plans now how we can save probably a little less cultivation. I’ve always been taught that the way to get rid of weeds is to chip them out or sacrify your soil, but modern technology tells us that there’s no need to cultivate so much. In fact they’re leaving the trash on the ground, just chopping it up, spreading fertiliser and not even scuffling it.

When the cane gets up a little bit, they have a spray now that cane off, but the weed’ll die. When the cane gets up to shoulder-height, when you can’t go over it with tractors, they have a machine that goes up in between the row, with booms up, and sprays in between three rows without spraying the cane, just in between the cane. They call ‘Bob’s your Uncle’ and it’s a couple of passes over it and you’ve got it all done. That’s one way. Although I’m just looking at an old ’Agricultural Journal’, nearly one hundred years old, that tells us "sacrify and cultivate your soil".

VP: Even the wheat industry now has got away a fair bit from cultivating their soils.

PERREN: That is right. Incidentally, the cane that was grown up at Dulong in the early part of the century – I’ve got records of it here where they put the tramline up to where Dulong Lookout is – the cane that was planted there was mattocked in the original scrub soil, and those farmers realised that if they kept that under cane the hill would erode away.

PERREN: They ceased to continue growing cane; they’d sow it in grass. And that’s probably why you see those good hills at Dulong and Kureelpa there, still under good grass country. It was very susceptible to erosion.

VP: So Fred, how many acres do you have now?

PERREN: Well, overall we have on the whole three farms, about six hundred acres total. But we have about 340 acres of cane assignment on those three farms.

VP: The Mill allows you to grow that many acres?

PERREN: That’s on a blueprint that the miller and grower keep a copy of and that’s where we can grown our cane.

VP: You can’t grow any more than that 340 acres without an agreement?

PERREN: We can’t go outside that defined area. There is a move now, which I think is a good one, that we will be allowed to still have 350 acres, but we’ll be allowed to grow it on other parts of the farm than what’s in the blue-print now, which I think will be for good farming. We can spell some, those who can – there are a lot of men in this area that can’t do that but for those who can, yes, it’s better farming.

Now originally we were granted a gross and a net assignment. At one hundred acres gross, we could estimate and harvest off seventy-five acres, but some years ago that was more or less put aside. The Mill wasn’t reaching a peak and we were allowed to cut eighty percent. The last few years it’s not strictly adhered to. Some growers cut one hundred percent.

VP: You were only allowed to cut seventy percent of what you planted?

PERREN: Seventy five percent of our total gross. A gross and a net.

VP: You only planted seventy five percent of the area? Is that what you mean?

PERREN: You could have it all under, but you were only allowed to estimate off seventy five percent of that total area. It’s been changed. Well, it’s still in the Award, but we harvest eighty percent, eighty five percent, some ninety percent. See some of the growers have got to do that to get their peak.

VP: What did you do? You stand-over the other percentage?

PERREN: Yes. If the Mill issues that they can take 105 percent of our peak, well those who got over their peak can cut five percent, which has helped some out in some circumstances. But you must remember this was an area of small growers, and farmers have had to buy other neighbours out to get a viable area. We have up to 340 acres I think, total, and we have just over one thousand ton of sugar. My two sons, with a little bit of my help now and again, can comfortably work that.

VP: Do they get cutters in?

PERREN: Oh yes. We’re in a group where the other members of the group own the machine.

VP: They’re other farmers, are they?

PERREN: There are four other farmers in the group. They own the machine and they harvest our cane at a little bit higher price than what they charge themselves, to pay for their own machine.

VP: What would you estimate is a viable area to make a living off?

PERREN: Oh well you’d have to have six or seven hundred ton of sugar. It’s average is between seven and eight ton of cane to make a ton of sugar. So you’d have to have up to four or five thousand ton to be a viable single man, single producer.

VP: And how many acres would that mean?

PERREN: Oh well, you’d average about thirty ton to the acre. It’d be towards the hundred acres. Some years ago there was a settling growers on the land; it was looked upon as forty hectares, well there’s one hundred acres.

Cane prices

VP: And what sort of prices are cane now?

PERREN: Well in the boom years we got twenty-five dollars for a ton of cane. That’s the mill average; Mill average, C.C.S. That was only for one year and it gradually came back to round about twenty. And the last year they anticipate around the eighteen or nineteen. That’s pretty low, there’s no profit margin in that. Some growers worked out their cost of production around about the fourteen or fifteen. But that’s employing their own family labour and working long hours and economising where they can. But to get a decent standard of living and making a little profit, you would have to get around the twenty dollars a ton of cane. That’s at Mill average, C.C.S.

VP: What does C.C.S. mean?

PERREN: C.C.S. means the cane content sugar. It’s worked on a one hundred percent. See at 13 1/3 test, it takes seven ton of sugar. Seven times 13 1/3 makes one hundred. At 12 ½ C.C.S. it takes eight ton of cane to make a ton of sugar. If you get up to 14s and 15s, the scale increases. It’s a matter of dollars different. Just for example, if you get 12 ½, it’s worth twenty dollars; if you get 14 it might be worth twenty-four dollars. But if you come below that, the comparison is lessened.

VP: Thank you very much for that information Fred.

End of Interview