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1 correction by doug.butler - Show corrections

NORTHERN TERRITORY SUGAR COMPANIES.

In May or June last year Mr. W. H. Thompson, who had formerly occupied the position of Manager of a sugar estate in the Island of Antigua, West Indies, was

dispatched by the Directors of the De Lissa and Adelaide and Port Darwin Sugar Com panies to the Northern Territory to report on the position and prospects of their planta- tions. Of this step Mr. De Lissa, the Manager of the first-named plantation, did not approve, and in consequence threw up his position and left for Borneo. The care of management then devolved on Mr. George Bean, and there being no one in the Territory who understood the manufacture of sugar the crop— such as there was of it — was spoiled. Mr. Thompson's report, which was received in September last, states that the selection of the site for the two plantations is in most respects admirable, and all that could be desired. Contrary to the experience of selectors on inland rivers, access is easy at all seasons, chiefly by water, the land carriage being short and without natural obstacles, and the whole estate probably within twenty miles of Pahnerston. He points out the un suitability of certain blocks put under culti vation, these having been, as it seems, chosen because they required little or no clearing, and which he advises should be applied to other uses than canegrowing. He refers to the perfect suitability of other blocks also under cultivation, and also the superior quality of much of the adjacent land for cane culture, stating that under judicious manage ment it should readily yield 2J to 3 tons of sugar per acre. He states that whilst the climate resembles that of Antigua in its dry and rainy seasons, and in its rainfall (60 inches a year), it is probable that the canes will also, as in Antigna, want occasional irrigation to help them through a dry season ; that whilst in Antigua planters readily pay from 1s. 6d. to 3s. 6d. per thousand gallons for water for this purpose, on the DeLissa and Adelaide and Port Darwin estates there exists in fresh-water creeks and springs an apparently inexhaustible supply of the purest quality, admirably situated for easy and cheap irrigation, so that a crop may always be insured. The site for the sugar-mill is also admirably chosen, and much work has been done on the estate, though some of the expenditure has been injudicious, and might nave been deferred for a while. And, to Mr. Thompson's eye, as a West Indian planter, there seemed to be much waste, of one kind or other, most of it avoidable. He recommends the employment of the steam plough, as much the most economical in the long run, especially in the absence of cheap and abundant labour. Also the introduction and breeding of mules for use on the estates as far more hardy for work, longer lived, and less subject to disease than horses in that climate. So satisfied is he of this from his West Indian experience that he recommends the breeding of mules for sale as well as use as likely to form a considerable item of profit to the Companies or to any one embarking in it, as he says they must eventu ally supersede the horse and come into general use throughout the Territory. As a matter that will interest many persons out side the two Companies, Mr. Thompson re marks that some of the best work done on the plantations, he was informed, had been done y the Port Essington aboriginal natives, some twenty or thirty of whom have been occasionally employed there, under the direction of Mr. Levi, brother of the Messrs. Levi, of Port Adelaide. This labour is cheap, and whilst useful to the Companies must be of still greater value to the blacks themselves, as the best initiation they could have into civilized life. Mr. Thomp son's report winds up with the following re marks: — 'In conclusion I must say that I never before had the pleasure of visiting and

reporting on such a vast and rich sugar country, and with sound and judicious management the result must eventually prove very remunerative, and it is to Queens land, where all the conditions of labour, cul tivation, and manufacture most nearly ap proach the Northern Territory, that the Directors of both Companies have turned to seek for a new Manager. By the kind and friendly aid of Mr. G. C. Craig, Editor of the Sugar Planter, a monthly journal published in Maryborough, devoted to the sugar in terests, communication has been opened with Mr. Frank Biddies, whose experience ex tends over twelve vears of sugar cultivation in Queensland.' Mr. Thompson goes on to describe in detail Mr. Biddle s fitness for the position and the high reputation which sugars manufactured by him have attained _ at various exhibitions, and concludes by reite rating his conviction of the value of the Companies' property. ?

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