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General Introduction

John Samuel Swire, aiming to build the largest and most up-to-date sugar refining plant in China, founded Taikoo Sugar Refining Company in June 1881. The Refinery, built in Quarry Bay at the eastern end of Hong Kong Island, was opened on 17 March 1884 with Butterfield & Swire as agent.

Sugar refining was one of Hong Kong’s major early industries. The other large refinery at the time was the China Sugar Refinery operated by Jardine, Matheson & Co. The object of refining raw cane sugar is to remove impurities and prepare the pure sugar in various forms required by consumers. Hong Kong’s white, refined sugar, which was whiter, cleaner and finer than products from other places, was particularly popular. Hong Kong’s sugar products were exported as far as Iran and Iraq, India and Ceylon, Canada, Australia and the United States.

China was a major supplier of raw sugar in the 19th century and a leading importer of refined sugar during the first half of the 20th century. Taikoo Sugar Refinery’s operation was supported by the fleet of the China Navigation Company--also handled by Butterfield & Swire--which brought raw sugar from Australia, Java and the Philippines and sent refined products to importing countries. It also had its own small fleet of sugar carrying ships.

An effective upcountry marketing system helped Taikoo open up the China market. 1925 saw the expansion of Taikoo Sugar Refinery into the largest single unit refinery in the world. Its dominant position was assured when the China Sugar Refinery ceased production around 1928 and sold its cube sugar making machine to Taikoo. During the Second World War (1941-45), Taikoo Sugar Refinery was badly damaged. In 1947/48, it was decided to rehabilitate the plant. At the same time, the company was incorporated in Hong Kong and its registration transferred from London. After an interruption of almost ten years, the refinery resumed operation in 1950.In the 1960s, sugar, produced by just the one refinery, Taikoo, was “the most valuable single food item on Hong Kong’s export list”.Taikoo Sugar closed down its refinery in 1972 to focus on sugar products and packaging.


  • General view of Taikoo Sugar

  • Oil Tank: welding bottom plates of oil storage ...

  • Taikoo Sugar Refinery staff

  • Group photograph taken at the retirement of Dun...