Economic analysis of irrigated agriculture development options for the Pilbara, Western Australia

Page last updated: Wednesday, 10 February 2021 - 4:02pm

Please note: This content may be out of date and is currently under review.

The Department of Agriculture and Food, WA (DAFWA) commissioned an economic analysis of irrigated agriculture development options for the Pilbara, in 2015, as part of the Royalties for Regions, Pilbara Hinterland Agricultural Development Initiative (PHADI).

This web page provides a summary of the report and a link to the full report.

What the analysis report covers

DAFWA engaged GHD to carry out the economic analysis of options for developing irrigated agriculture in the Pilbara, Western Australia. 

The report assesses the viability of a range of irrigated crop options, including crops grown for livestock fodder (grain and hay), fibre (cotton), human food (mungbeans, peanuts, tomatoes, capsicums) and industrial use (guar). Crops were mainly assessed for export potential based on exports from Port Hedland, but value-add options for grain/hay use in cattle feedlots and as biofuel feedstock were also included.

This report does not assess the viability of individual crops in relation to soil types, temperatures, evaporation and water availability or more intensive greenhouse production systems.

The report includes:

  • a summary and background of pertinent information currently available on the economic viability of some irrigated agriculture in the Pilbara
  • market analysis of crops, including existence or otherwise of supply chains to market (domestic and export)
  • economic analysis of selected crops including gross margins, net present value and sensitivities
  • risk assessment and development of potential scenarios, which combine different crop rotations, processing and marketing options.

Who can use this report

The report provides businesses, industry and potential investors with a preliminary economic assessment of a range of irrigated crops in the Pilbara, which can guide more intensive investigation and analysis.

Conclusions from the report

GHD considered that decisions on the adoption of different crops and value add options could be categorised into three generations of development, with those of least risk and higher potential for economic return to have the highest priority.

First generation (years 1–5)

Fodder crops (grain and hay for export)

Second generation (years 6–10)

Cattle feedlot. In addition, ongoing development of first generation crop production systems (expansion of area, lifting yields, specialisation, further development of export or niche markets, further on-farm processing (e.g. stockfeed pellets), further development of supply chain infrastructure.

Third generation (years 11+)

Cotton, peanuts, pulses, canning tomatoes and capsicums and biofuel (ethanol).

Additional economic analysis will be undertaken as part of further work under the PHADI project.

For more information

Download the full report Economic Analysis of Irrigated Agriculture Development Options for the Pilbara.

Contact information

Chris Schelfhout
+61 (0)8 9143 7011