Although some reports indicate that the first pineapples were brought to Australia by German missionaries who had travelled to Australia via India, The Australian reported in 1826 that several pineapple plants from South America had been received into the Government garden in Sydney. Pineapples were widespread in the tropics by that time. They were distributed by Spanish navigators after Columbus 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, thanks to European navigators, they were growing in many tropical areas including the Philippines, Hawaii and India.
In England, the word pineapple originally referred to a pine cone but, by the 17th century, it had become the name for the fruit we know and love. By the mid-17th century, pineapples were being grown in hothouses in England and the Netherlands and the difficulty of cultivating them outside the tropics made them an expensive luxury item.
The first pineapples in Australia were a small, rough-leaf variety and were being grown commercially by the early 1840s at Nundah, now a suburb of Brisbane. 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 the 1920s and the best-known brand, Golden Circle, was established in 1947. Pineapple production in Australia reached its peak in the late 1980s, but cheaper imported product has eroded the volume in the canning sector since the 1990s.
In 2017–18, pineapple production was valued at $49 million. The industry estimated that in 2019 around 43,400 tonnes of fresh fruit and 23,500 tonnes of processed fruit were marketed. Both fresh and canned volumes had declined over the previous five years.