Pure Australian tea tree oil is an essential oil distilled from plantations of Melaleuca alternifolia and can be used in cosmetics, health care and home care products.

The AgriFutures Tea Tree Oil Program aims to improve the productivity and sustainability of the Australian tea tree oil industry through research, development and extension (RD&E) projects that reduce barriers in the market and improve production systems with the development and adoption of new varieties and improved agronomic practices.

About the Program

The AgriFutures Tea Tree Oil Program is focused on the development of a prosperous Australian tea tree oil industry with sustainable pricing and production in long term balance with supply. Other priorities include defensibility against foreign and adulterated products, long term sustainability of production, and the identification and management of regulatory risks.

Key components of the AgriFutures Tea Tree Oil Program are to improve supply, increase demand and to provide effective extension of RD&E outputs.

RD&E Plan

AgriFutures Strategic RD&E Plans guide the Program’s investments. Developed in consultation with industry, the AgriFutures Tea Tree Oil Program RD&E Plan 2018 to 2022 includes three key objectives.

  1. Improving supply of Australian tea tree oil through investigation of higher yielding varieties, agronomic advances, reduction in input costs and better adoption of RD&E outputs
  2. Increasing demand through the development of innovative uses for Australian tea tree oil, particularly agricultural and cosmetic applications, and ensuring market access.
  3. Focus on extension, industry sustainability and building human capital.

RD&E investments are guided by the Tea Tree Oil Advisory Panel.

Australia’s tea tree oil industry

Tea tree oil is extracted from Melaleuca alternifolia grown in plantations and distilled via steam injection. Tea tree oil has a range of uses, can be found in cosmetics, personal health care, home and industrial and animal care products, and is recognised by consumers and manufacturers for its anti-microbial effectiveness.

Tea tree is tolerant of coastal acid sulphate soils and most plantations are located in the coastal region of northern NSW and the Atherton Tablelands of Queensland.

AgriFutures Australia’s investment in the tea tree breeding program over the past 25 years has resulted in the near doubling of plantation yield. These investments have also delivered efficiencies in harvesting, distillation, storage and marketable oil benefits. In 2017 Australia’s tea tree oil industry emerged as a mature industry and became a levy paying program.

Key challenges for the Australian tea tree oil industry are to continue to improve profitability, reduce costs of production and increase demand. Traceability and quality assurance of the clean, green pure Australian product is also important to maintaining Australia’s competitive advantage. As price increases and demand continue to grow, new plantings in other regions of the world and the availability of cheap adulterated product have potential to impact on the commercial competitiveness of Australian-grown oil.


Industry Advisory Panel

The AgriFutures Tea Tree Oil Program is overseen by the Tea Tree Oil Advisory Panel.

AgriFutures Australia partners with its key levied agricultural industries for the delivery of RD&E through Industry Advisory Panels. These panels perform key tasks to guide and assist AgriFutures Australia with investments, including:

  1. Advising on the industry requirements for research and development through the development and monitoring of RD&E Plans
  2. Advising on proposals for RD&E investment in accordance with the objectives and strategies of industry-specific RD&E Plans
  3. Monitoring, reviewing and advising on research support for the relevant industry
  4. Advising on, and assisting in, the dissemination, adoption and commercialisation of the results of RD&E activities.

Industry Advisory Panels are representative of the RD&E programs implemented by AgriFutures Australia. Panel members are selected on a skills-basis and may contribute with capacities in strategic management, governance, industry-specific knowledge, science, technology, leadership and ethics. AgriFutures Australia encourages diversity through age, gender and geographic location, working with specific industry sectors to foster leadership skills to support succession planning for future panel members.

Members of AgriFutures Australia’s Advisory Panels are selected following a public recruitment process which involves a competitive skills-based assessment and/or consultation with key industry bodies and stakeholders.


John Smith
General Manager, Research


Industry Association

About your levy

Australian primary industries that choose to invest in the levies system prescribe the amount of levy or charge applied to a commodity under the Primary Industries (Customs) Charges Act 1999Primary Industries (Excise) Levies Act 1999, National Residue Survey (Customs) Levy Act 1998 and the National Residue Survey (Excise) Levy Act 1998.

Levy and charge revenue can be directed to biosecurity preparedness and emergency plant pest and animal disease responses, residue testing, marketing and research and development. It is the decision of a primary industry to determine the proportion of how a levy or charge is directed to each of these activities.

The Levy is collected and distributed via the Department of Agriculture. For more information, visit the Department of Agriculture Water and the Environment website.

AgriFutures Australia also receives Commonwealth matching funding based on 0.5% of the aggregate GVP of all AgriFutures Australia’s levied industries (Arena 3) or half of AgriFutures Australia’s eligible expenditure – whichever is the lesser. This includes expenditure in non-levied industries Arenas 1, 2 and 4 irrespective of their funding source.

AgriFutures Australia’s Board allocates the Commonwealth matching funding to each levied industry program. The respective programs will receive 50c per dollar of eligible expenditure (subject to availability of Commonwealth matching funding).

The total program budget comprises of the R&D levy allocation, Commonwealth matching funding (allocated by the AgriFutures Australia Board) and third party contributions (where appropriate). The graphs below represent the levy breakdown and the annual Program investment.

View the AgriFutures Tea Tree Oil Program income and expenditure for 2019-20 statement.

Related Publications


Final report summary: Sustainable invertebrate pest and disease management in tea tree


Scoping study of sustainable weed management in tea tree oil plantations: Review of Literature


Communication of Research Findings to Tea Tree Oil Industry Levy Payers


Final Report Summary: Block Chain Traceability for Tea Tree Oil - Part 2

Related Resources

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AgriFutures Tea Tree Oil Program Industry Update Vol.2 No.1

Meet Julia Voelker PhD candidate, blockchain technology to unlock tea tree oil potential and last call for Advisory Panel applications.

Read more

A Biosecurity Plan for the Tea Tree Industry has been prepared and released by Plant Health Australia

This plan is a framework to coordinate biosecurity activities and investment for Australia’s tea tree industry.

Read more

AgriFutures Tea Tree Oil Program Industry Update Vol.1 No.4

Program updates from our AgriFutures Tea Tree Oil Program.


AgriFutures Tea Tree Oil Program Industry Update Vol.1 No.3

Program updates from our AgriFutures Tea Tree Oil Program.


AgriFutures Tea Tree Oil Program Industry Update Vol.1 No.2

Project updates from our AgriFutures Tea Tree Oil Program.


AgriFutures Tea Tree Oil Program Industry Update Vol.1 No.1

Project updates from our AgriFutures Tea Tree Oil Program.


Latest News and Events


AgriFutures Tea Tree Oil Program researcher spotlight: Associate Professor Paul Kristiansen

Funded by the AgriFutures Tea Tree Oil Program, Associate Professor Paul Kristiansen and his team at the University of New England have commenced a scoping study to better understand current crop nutrition practices and best practice strategies. By benchmarking current practices and innovations, this study is one step towards more efficient and effective crop nutrition in Australian tea tree (Melaleuca alternifolia) plantations.


Looking for a challenge? AgriFutures Australia is seeking applications for the Tea Tree Oil Advisory Panel

Are you a “Next gen” leader currently working in Australian agriculture and looking to expand your industry focus and knowledge? Or someone with a skillset in marketing,  communications and extension, formulation chemistry or manufacturing that can be applied to a range of rural industries? AgriFutures Advisory Panel Chair Michael Flanagan wants you to consider applying for a position on the AgriFutures Tea Tree Oil Advisory Panel. Applications are now open and close on Tuesday, 27 April 2021.