New RD&E targets for an Australian natural healing oil


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AgriFutures Australia and tea tree oil producers have set ambitious research priorities to improve supply and increase demand for the natural antiseptic. The Tea Tree Oil Program RD&E Plan 2018-2022 comes after the introduction of a research levy and a new “emerged” status for the $35 million industry.

Improving supply and increasing demand for Australian tea tree oil are the top priorities for the industry in the new Research Development and Extension (RD&E) Plan.

The Five Year Plan was published following last year’s introduction of a research and development levy of 25 cents per kilogram of tea tree oil produced. The levy is expected to collect more than $160,000 from the industry each year and will be matched by Federal Government funds. The program will be managed by AgriFutures Australia.

AgriFutures Australia, Program Manager Research & Innovation Duncan Farquhar said the RD&E Plan outlines industry priorities, and how money from the levy will be spent.

“Improving supply is the first objective in the Plan. The tea tree oil yield can be volatile and like many agricultural industries, is impacted by droughts and floods. To meet the growing demand for tea tree oil, we must also address the need for higher yielding varieties,” said Mr Farquhar.

Increasing the demand for tea tree oil is the second objective of the Plan and represents 45% of the RD&E budget.  There are many technical issues to work through in cosmetic and therapeutic formulation. As these are addressed, consumers across the world will have access to more of the benefits of tea tree oil.

“Adulteration of tea tree oil is a huge issue for the industry. There are a lot of tea tree oils that do not meet the standard of Pure Australian Tea Tree Oil. Safety and efficacy work is completed on oils that meet the standard.  Cosmetic companies are taking a risk if they do not use oil that meet the standards” said Mr Farquhar.

Australian Tea Tree Industry Association (ATTIA) President and Managing Director of Main Camp, the industry’s largest producer, Phillip Butlin said the Tea Tree Oil Program RD&E Plan closely mirrors the industry’s own Five Year Plan and provides a good road map to drive the industry forward.

“The RD&E Plan, when combined with the levy funding, provides an excellent framework against which to judge the various potential RD&E projects in the pipeline,” Mr Butlin said.

As one of the newest levied industries to join the AgriFutures Australia rural industries mix, AgriFutures Australia will be working closely with the Australian tea tree oil industry to ensure the industry’s five year research priorities meet industry needs and are informed by government priorities.

Fast facts

  • The tea tree oil levy came into effect on 1 July 2017
  • The tea tree oil industry has a farm gate value of over $35 million
  • Approximately 90% of production is exported with major markets located in North America and Europe
  • Tea tree oil has recognised antiseptic, anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory and anti-viral properties
  • Up to 50% of all commercial samples tested have been found to be non-conforming to the ISO 4730: 2017 Standard. Industry efforts at detecting and reporting adulteration have been effective in reducing this figure.
Tea Tree Oil Program RD&E Plan 2018–2022

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