THE value of horticulture on the Tablelands has almost doubled in just four years, but industry leaders warn major infrastructure improvements are needed to continue the trajectory.
The horticulture industry is worth an estimated $528 million to the region annually, new data shows, an increase of 45 per cent on 2015 figures.
Mareeba Chamber of Commerce president, Joe Moro, attributed the growth to the significant increase in new plantings of key commodities, including avocados, citrus and blueberries.
"Horticulture is the predominant agriculture industry in the broader Mareeba region, and its flow on effects are significant," Mr Moro said.
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The avocado industry is the most valuable to the Tablelands, worth $173 million annually.
The Tablelands district produced 27 per cent of Australia's avocados in the last two years, outputting an average of 23,200 tonnes of the fruit annually.
Other other notable industries include banana, $97 million, mango, $58 million, citrus, $56 million, blueberries, $43 million, papaya, $19 million and potatoes, $18 million.
Mr Moro said the value of horticulture to the region would continue to increase.
He said while mango production had plateaued at $58 million, he expected plantations of mandarins at Dimbulah would see the citrus industry move into the position of the third highest value horticultural industry.
"Citrus will be interesting to watch with some very large plantations of mandarins out at Dimbulah, so there's going to be a significant increase."
Mr Moro said table grapes were also expected to increase significantly over the next few years, with one large operator expanding, and he expected the commodity to feature highly in five years time.
"There is still room for a lot more expansion, the figures don't include sugar or dairy.
"Agriculture is worth a lot of money to the Tablelands and jobs are a bit part of that as well. There is a lot of opportunity for jobs in horticulture on the Tablelands.
Mr Moro said the Mareeba Chamber of Commerce's 2019-20 Economic Snapshot also provided an opportunity to look at critical issues in the region.
"The snapshot takes the opportunity to look at critical issues like a safe, efficient and reliable transport network and long-term water security, and the urgent need to address these to ensure Mareeba continues along the development trajectory that it has enjoyed to date."
Mr Moro said water security remained an issue that needed to be addressed.
"Tablelands, Lakeland and Tully is the third largest fruit growing bowl in Australia, and water security is needed for the region to reach its potential growth in the long term."
He said transport and freight options were also needed, particularly sealing the inland highway and potentially connecting with the inland rail to provide easier access to markets in Victoria, South Australia and Perth.