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Gulf and Peninsula News

Horticulture booming in the region

THE long-awaited Tablelands Agricultural Profile has been released which includes the 2018/2019 horticulture industry figures – signalling the first update since 2015.

The statistics are courtesy of the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (DAF), and what they show is a significant increase in the agricultural sector to the tune of 45 per cent over the past four years.

The mammoth increase is in large part thanks to the booming production and consumption of the region’s avocados, blueberries and citrus varieties.

In addition, there are new fruit and vegetables which are quickly gaining traction in the region such as table grapes, which could prove crucial to the industry’s profit margin in the future.

“Horticulture is the Tablelands’ major agricultural sector, contributing $528 million to the Tablelands economy in 2018/2019,” DAF Mareebabased principal horticulturalist Dr Geoff Dickinson said.

“The significant increase of 45 per cent was largely due to the expansion and maturing of avocado, blueberry and citrus plantings within the region and moderate to good market prices for a number of other key horticulture industries.”

There were significant concerns held by a number of agricultural personnel about the demise of farming in Mareeba once the tobacco industry fell at the hands of deregulation.

However, the Tableland growers and their ability to adapt to changing times is the reason behind the overwhelming success we see in 2019.

That is evidenced by the rise of the avocado industry, with it soaring to become the most valuable on the Tablelands as its worth to the region’s economy is $173 million – significantly up from $83 million in 2015.

The Tablelands is now Australia’s largest avocado growing region, and it is only expected to grow even further with half of the avocado trees less than five years old.

Other notable industries which are contributing immensely to the economy is the ever-reliable banana industry ($97 million), mango industry ($58 million), citrus ($56 million), blueberries ($43 million), papaya ($19 million) and potatoes ($18 million).

With that financial success comes jobs, another area which has seen a noteworthy uptick over the last four years.

“High-value horticulture crops such as avocado, banana, citrus and blueberries require high resource inputs and are also highly labour intensive which has brought many new permanent and seasonal jobs to the region,” Dr Dickinson said.

For those interested in seeing a complete run-down of the horticultural figures of 2018/2019, they can be found in the Mareeba Chamber of Commerce’s Economic Snapshot 2019/2020 publication, with copies available at The Express or at the Mareeba Heritage Museum and Visitor Information Centre.

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