Lautoka was the last mill to be built by CSR in Fiji, and it was built between 1902 and 1903.
Cane planting for the Lautoka Mill began in 1902, and some 10 thousand acres were planted that year. The Lautoka railway system was established together with the Mill and was expanded and connected with the Rarawai rail system by 1908. The railway line to Sigatoka was built around 1912.
The first crushing season for the mill was 1903, when it crushed 134,246 tonnes of cane in twenty-six and a half weeks, and produced 14,500 tonnes of sugar.The crushing rate achieved was 42 tonnes per hour. It is also of interest to note that the CSR first crushed over one million tonnes of cane in 1904, that is both in Australia and Fiji, and of that crop, a little over 50 percent was crushed right here in Lautoka Mill.
The first one million tonne crop for Lautoka was achieved in 1959. By that time, the mill was crushing at about 200 tonnes an hour, and the cane crop for that year was 1,660,271 tonnes, which produced 160,220 tonnes of sugar.
Initially, cane was grown in the mill area only. But as the industry grew, it was expanded into other areas like Nadi and Sigatoka. Mill capacity expanded, so did cane growing.
Until 1909, CSR grew cane on its own plantations using indentured Indian laborers. The second phase of CSR's plans involved sub-dividing these plantations to lease the land to independent planters who continued to employ indentured laborers.
The abolishment of the indentured system in 1916 created a severe labor scarcity, and by 1924 the sugar industry faced the problem of labor shortage, which required a new initiative. It was through this that the small tenant farmer system evolved.
The cane research activities CSR was conducting in Australia at the time embraced Fiji as well. The Fiji Research Center was built in 1958. The Center has since been independent from Australia and is capable of doing the work required of it by the Fiji Sugar Industry.