It’s thought that the first pineapples were brought to Australia by German missionaries who had travelled to Australia via India. Pineapples were widespread in the tropics by that time. They were distributed by Spanish navigators after Colombus first encountered them in Guadeloupe in 1493. Pineapples are indigenous to South America and were cultivated by the Maya and Aztecs. By the mid-1500s, they were growing in many tropical areas including the Philippines, Hawaii and India, thanks to European navigators.
In England, the name pineapple originally referred to a pine-cone. By the late 17th century, it became the term for this fruit. The first pineapples in Australia were a small, rough-leaf variety. They were being grown commercially by the early 1840s at Nundah, now a suburb of Brisbane.
Pineapples were grown in glass-houses in Europe and the first large, smooth-leaf variety (known as Smooth Cayenne) was introduced to Australia from Kew Gardens in 1858. This variety became the most widely grown in Australia.
All planting, fertilising and harvesting was done by hand until the advent of the rotary hoe in the 1930s. Hand harvesting persisted until the 1960s. Canning commenced in 1947 but cheaper imported product has eroded the volume in this sector from the 1990s.
In the 2012-13 season, the Australian pineapple processing sector produced 39,000 tonnes of fruit for canning and juicing, which was worth $12.5 million. The fresh sector, however, is expanding. In the 2012-13 season, 48,000 tonnes of fresh pineapple was produced and sold on the domestic market, with a farm gate value of $57.5 million.