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.


Peanut farmers photographed near Kingaroy in the 1920s. Most farms had very little mechanisation at that time



Sorting peanuts at the Peanut Marketing Board in the 1920s. The peanut industry still is a major employer in the area



Peanuts first grown in Australia


Peanuts first grown in the South Burnett area of Queensland


Brothers Harry and Ben Young plant their first peanut crop at Memerambi


Fledgling industry receives a boost

NSW company Marrickville Margarine (later known as ETA) installs machinery to extract peanut oil for use in margarine manufacture


Marrickville Margarine purchases entire Burnett area peanut crop


Peanut Marketing Board (PMB) forms

with W.M. Wheatley as chairman, at the request of Queensland growers to acquire the crop and market it on their behalf. First Crop of 231MT received with a selling value of approximately $21,000.


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 and 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

which started accidentally in the lunchroom!


Annual production of peanuts reaches in excess of 21,000 tonnes


In the early 70's PMB production reached 47,000 tonnes,

however it was in 1979 the Australian peanut industry produced a mammoth 61,464 tonnes of peanuts!


For the first time, the entire PMB production was quality sorted using electronic sorting machines.


Aflatoxin standards applied world wide at 15ppb.

PMB laboratory achieves NATA accreditation for the testing of Aflatoxin. Peanut Marketing Board and the Department of Primary industries commenced seed breeding scheme with Dr Ray Shorter.


PMB completed construction of a Blanching Plant

to process the aflatoxin affected portion of the 1980 season crop at a cost of $2,396,985.


Peanut Marketing Board restructures into a public unlisted company, PMB Australia Ltd


PMB Australia Ltd changes its name to the Peanut Company of Australia Ltd (PCA)


Introduction of Hi Oleic peanut line

from University of Florida by the Queensland DPI, and breeding activity commences with locally bred peanuts by Alan Cruickshank.


The first commercial sale of Hi Oleic peanuts (SO95R) by PCA


PCA open a $1.76m Innovation and Technical Centre opens in Kingaroy

PCA purchases property in the Northern Territory to produce a winter peanut crop


Transport by rail to Kingaroy stopped

and was replaced by road transport.


Irrigated production of the 'Runner' type

increases through the adoption of a comprehensive Water Management Strategy by PCA


PCA purchases a second property

in the Northern Territory for additional winter peanut production


Major peanut growing areas expanded

with all growing regions now including the Atherton Tableland near Cairns, Emerald in Central Queensland, Bundaberg and Childers, and in the South and Central Burnett regions west of Brisbane.

Picky Picky Peanuts products - packs and flavours

PCA launches Picky Picky Peanuts to share with fellow peanut perfectionists!