NOTICE: Hard copies of the Australian New Crops Newsletter are available from the publisher, Dr Rob Fletcher. Details of availability are included in theAdvice on Publications Available.
Queensland Department of Primary Industries
Mareeba 4880 Queensland
The tea plant is a long-lived perennial tree, related to the ornamental Camellia. The young shoots of the plant are crushed and dried to make an infusion which we know as tea. The production is of two major types, green or Chinese tea, and black tea which is more commonly drunk in Western countries. The major difference between the two types lies in the processing.
Tea consumption per capita in Australia is fairly high on the world scale, but has tended to fall over the past forty years in favour of coffee.
Current total consumption of tea in Australia has remained fairly steady over the past twenty years at about 20,000 tonnes per annum. About 95% of this is imported.
Tea was first grown in north Queensland in the 1880s, but was not very successful because of difficulties securing labour to harvest (pluck) the crop. This venture was abandoned following a major cyclone in 1918.
Interest in tea re-emerged during World War II, when supplies from overseas were threatened. Research commenced at South Johnstone Research Station in north Queensland in the early 1950s to assess the feasibility of producing tea in Australia. The early results showed that hand plucking was not viable in Australia, as the cost of plucking was higher then the retail price of imported tea. Work then focussed on assessing the practicality of mechanical harvesting, using hand-held hedge trimming equipment. This work demonstrated that tea of acceptable quality could be produced at significantly lower cost than hand plucking.
These findings led to commercial interest in the crop in the late 1950s, when Dr Allan Maruff, a medical practitioner in Innisfail, north Queensland, commenced a commercial venture. This venture was based on mechanical harvesting, using machines developed locally from an imported French machine. These Queensland-built machines were sturdily built, self-propelled units, and proved to be the key to successful tea production in Australia.
The original venture unfortunately experienced financial difficulties, largely arising from marketing problems. There was a marked reluctance by the packers of tea in Australia to accept and pay a reasonable price for Australian-grown tea. The venture was then taken over by a group of local businessmen, who soon realised that the key to success was to package and market their product themselves. During the 1970s and 1980s, tea production expanded, and the "Nerada" label gained space on supermarket shelves, and acceptance by consumers.
Tea plantings in Australia expanded rapidly in the 1980s in response to a rapid short-term increase in world tea prices.
There are currently approximately twelve commercial tea growing operations in Australia; ten in north Queensland and two in northern New South Wales. The total commercial area is estimated to be 750 ha.
The key factors which enabled tea to achieve commercial success in Australia were:
Any claims made by authors in the Australian New Crops Newsletter are presented by the Editors in good faith. Readers would be wise to critically examine the circumstances associated with any claims to determine the applicability of such claims to their specific set of circumstances. This material can be reproduced, with the provision that the source and the author (or editors, if applicable) are acknowledged and the use is for information or educational purposes. Contact with the original author is probably wise since the material may require updating or amendment if used in other publications. Material sourced from the Australian New Crops Newsletter cannot be used out of context or for commercial purposes not related to its original purpose in the newsletter
Contact: Dr Rob Fletcher, School of Land and Food, The University of Queensland Gatton College, 4345; Telephone: 07 5460 1311 or 07 5460 1301; Facsimile: 07 5460 1112; International facsimile: 61 7 5460 1112; Email:firstname.lastname@example.org
[New Crops Home Page] [New Crops Program] [Australian New Crops Newsletter] [New Crops Publications] [Order Form] [People] [Crop Profiles] [Other Resources]
originally created by:GK; latest update 6 June 1999 by: RF