HORTICULTURAL production could double in Lakeland in coming years if a proposed irrigation scheme gets the go ahead.
A detailed $10 million business case into the Lakeland Irrigation Scheme is about to start after the Australian and Queensland governments signed a formal project agreement.
It comes after a feasibility study completed early last year found the proposed scheme had the potential to expand irrigated agriculture by about 8000 hectares.
Leichhardt MP, Warren Entsch, said water security and affordability were key concerns for growers in the Lakeland irrigation area.
"We have listened to our local producers and we are acting by funding this crucial business case for the proposed scheme," Mr Entsch said.
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"It'll be designed to increase the secure water available for local agriculture, giving farmers the confidence to invest in expanded and higher-value production."
Townsville-based senator, Susan McDonald, said delivering the final engineering and scoping works on the region-defining project was a major step.
"I know just how vital water is for all our farmers and in fact the whole community in Lakeland, which has long established itself as home to a vibrant agricultural precinct," Ms McDonald said.
Third-generation farmer Paul Inderbitzin, who farms bananas, avocados and broadacre crops over 500ha of cultivated country alongside father Tom and brother Martin, said securing additional water was vital for producers in the region.
"The Lakeland area can't progress without any more water available," Mr Inderbitzin said.
"Water is the limiting factor, and the Palmer River irrigation concept and design is particularly good for the area in terms of water security, energy generation and energy use.
"We're only growing broadacre and horticultural crops on about 50 per cent of the land in Lakeland, the rest is dryland country."
FNQ Growers chair, Joe Moro, said with additional water the Lakeland region had the potential to expand not only existing horticultural crops like bananas and avocados, but to attract new commodities.
"The Lakeland area continuously produces top quality horticultural products and there is potential for more growth, which will lead to a bigger industry in the Far North," Mr Moro said.
"Currently there's a lot of bananas and broadacre crops and a fairly large expansion of avocados.
"With an extra 10,000 hectares of production area to come into play there's great potential for not only existing crops, but some that haven't even been thought about at this stage."
The business case and approvals for the Lakeland Irrigation Scheme is due for completion by late September 2022.
Mr Moro said if the business case went to plan, it would advance the scheme to the 'shovel-ready' stage.
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