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North Queensland has an economy that is affected by many seasonal variations. These variations can be climatic such as an active cyclone season affecting crops to political unrest in Europe affecting tourist numbers in Cairns. In spite of this often uncertain economic climate industry continues to grow and in some cases thrives.

A typical yearly breakdown of the value of each of the major industry sectors and their overall income per annum is:

Tourism AUD $1.2 Billion 40%
Agriculture AUD $594 Million


Mining AUD $428 Million 14%
Manufacturing AUD $330 Million 11%
Fishing AUD $230 Million 8%
Other AUD $200 Million 6%

Sugar cane is by far the largest cash crop in the North Queensland although it is by no means the only crop. Bananas, mangos and tobacco are all grown in large commercial quantities and the Atherton Tableland (west of Cairns) is a large dairy producing region.

Cairns itself has a ship building industry that is dominated by one company NQEA. They have developed a reputation as one of the leading ship building companies in the world.

There is a large retail industry in Cairns with over 1000 retail shops in Cairns City Council shire. This is a turbulent industry that has been affected by an oversupply and lack of demand for the past five years. It is only now showing some signs of recovery.

Cairns is the base for a large fishing fleet, predominantly prawn fishing for the Gulf of Carpentaria and Torres Strait. The port also services freighters from around the world picking up various export produce such as sugar and mineral ores.

Periodically Cairns will go through a development boom, which will see many large projects, providing a cash injection into the economy. These can be anything from building new hotels and resorts to extending the runway at the International Airport.

Tourism still shows the greatest growth and potential for improvement in the coming decade, especially following the publicity of the Olympic Games.

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