An economic survey has found Darwin’s agricultural zone is worth more than double the much-heralded Ord Irrigation Scheme, in Western Australia.

The report, commissioned by the Northern Territory Farmers’ Association, lists the gross value of production for NT plant industries at $244.4 million, excluding forestry.

Key “pinch points” throughout the supply chain were used to collect “actual data” for 2015, providing what the Association says is the first true valuation of the sector. The Litchfield Shire, which includes Darwin’s rural area, accounts for $122.7 million of the production, which compares to the Ord Valley’s production value of $45 million, as reported by the WA Government in 2013.

The two other Top End agricultural regions, Katherine/Mataranka/Douglas Daly and Central Australia, were valued at $103.2 million and $18.5 million respectively. In the year surveyed, 97,500 tonnes of goods were produced from the horticulture sector, along with 80,000 tonnes of hay.

Released on Tuesday evening, the data is contradictory to that of the Australian Bureau of Statistics in 2014-15, which valued total NT crops at $87.6 million. The figures are also at odds with the NT Department of Primary Industry, which had its value of NT crops at $136 million for 2014-15. Both groups use different collection techniques to compile data to that used by NT Farmers.

Mangoes were the highest valued commodity at $88.5 million, with melons the second highest at $52.6 million. Other production areas of significance included Asian vegetables, other vegetables, grapes and nurseries.

An economic survey has found Darwin's agricultural zone is worth more than double the Ord Irrigation Scheme.
An economic survey has found Darwin’s agricultural zone is worth more than double the Ord Irrigation Scheme.

Total inputs for farms amounted to $170 million, including $92.1 million in labour costs. NT Farmers CEO Shenal Basnayake says the detailed economic survey was the first of its kind for the Top End, conducted by consultants. He said it was a deliberate strategy to use different collection methodology to what’s been used previously. “The methodology is based on direct contact with farmers, so we took a sample size of farmers,” he said.

“We went and interviewed them – they went and spoke with them one on one. “They also went and found the pinch points in the supply chain… so we knew how much freight was moving through, what was packed and how much volume.”

Mr Basnayake said the value of agriculture in the Top End was less prominent because historically governments had spent less money on developing it.

“Farming in the Northern Territory, yes there is government involvement, but there isn’t much of it,” he said. “There have been ministers putting progressive policies through the Northern Territory government but we haven’t had a lot of federal involvement.

“The Ord on the other hand has had a lot of involvement from various governments – the state government and the federal government.

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