The Carnarvon Horticulture District is situated on the fertile delta of the Gascoyne River. Despite the fact that the river flows irregularly, and the town is in the middle of 500km of arid landscape, this horticulture district plays an important role in providing fresh fruit and vegetables to the Perth market 1000km away.
Crops are grown on micro drip irrigation using water from below ground aquifers. The Carnarvon Horticulture District is considered the best managed irrigation district in Australia. The dry sub tropical climate makes Carnarvon suitable to grow a wide range of temperate, tropical and subtropical produce across the seasons.
The most recent trend has been to diversify to tree and vine crops such as low-chill stone fruits (peaches, nectarines and plums), red grapefruit and table grapes. These crops take advantage of the sub-tropical climate conditions and can supply Perth with product earlier than the traditional production areas, extending their availability.
The majority of horticulture activity is carried out along the banks of Gascoyne River near Carnarvon on 170 plantations covering an area of 1,500 hectares. The most significant crops in volume and value are bananas, tomatoes, table grapes, capsicum and mango.
There have been a number of horticultural enterprises developed on pastoral leases and these are producing melons, table grapes, citrus and asparagus. There is increasing interest in expanding business activities in these areas to include ecotourism and wildflower production.
In 2007 the Gascoyne horticultural industry grew approximately 39,000 tonnes of produce worth $87.6 million. Of this, fruit accounted for 8,400 tonnes worth $26.7 million and vegetables 30,500 tonne of valued at $60.9 million
Production trends are influenced by seasonal factors such as cyclones, river flows and pests and disease. For example in March 2000, rainfall generated by cyclone Steve caused significant flooding and severe crop damage. Statistics indicate a period of three years to fully recover from the loss of top soil and damage to crops.