The CSR, the Victoria Sugar Co. and some New Zealand business interest (known as the New Zealand Sugar Company) undertook to establish a mill at Ba in 1884. Although the original site chosen was Varoko, Ba it was changed to the present position before construction commenced.
Mr. E W Knox, General Manager of CSR, following a visit to Fiji in 1884, took a journey up the Ba River in a rowing boat to inspect the site selected for the mill and also its potential cane lands. He also mentioned that in those early days, means of communication in Fiji were very primitive, and messages were sent from Nausori to Rarawai, a distance of 70 miles over mountainous country. The messages were carried by native runners, the trip often taking a week or more: payment was ₤1 per trip.
The preparation of the cane lands, the planting of the cane and the erection of the mill were duly put in hand, and on July 12th, 1886 the Rarawai Mill rollers began to turn. Indentured Indian labourers and some Polynesians were employed both in the field and in the mill.
Rarawai Mill hit it’s first one million tonnes of cane in 1979. Prior to that crushing figures ranged from 650-850,000 tonnes of cane.
The best sugar return was in 1981 when the mill produced 151,525 tonnes of sugar.
The Rarawai Plantation was originally owned by two cotton planters, Spiers and McIntosh, who were killed by the Fijians in 1871.
By the early 1900’s, the Rarawai cane lands extended as far as Tavua to the north-east and a considerable distance south-west towards Lautoka in 1907. Rail connection with both areas was established, and from then onwards Rarawai sugar was shipped from Lautoka a great advance as previously it had to be lightered to ships lying in the Ba River.
The first cane experiment station in Fiji was established at Rarawai in 1904 and one of an early success was the raising of the variety Pompey in 1907, a cane particularly suitable for the less-fertile soils.
Rarawai Mill has always been subject
to minor, and sometimes major,
flooding of the Ba River, with their
consequent deposition of silt and
mud in the mill and in the
surrounding offices and buildings.
In 1931 a hurricane and flood of
exceptional violence struck the
settlement, with loss of life and
property. On that occasion the
official rainfall over ten days at
the Government hill station of
Nadarivatu, behind Rarawai was 96.72
inches; the heaviest single day’s
fall being 24.20 inches.