Australian Tea Tree Update

‘From Hell to High Water’

Unless you chose to hide in a box over the past few months you will have seen many of the extreme weather conditions that are hitting the world, none more so than in Australia. Years of droughts contributed to some of the worst bushfires in modern history, destroying so many hectares of land, livestock, wildlife and homes which was then followed by widespread rains which resulted in severe flooding. So how do you live with this if you’re an Australian tea tree farmer and how does all of this look today as think towards the 2020 season?

We almost gave up trying to keep customers up to date over the early New Year period as week to week, almost day by day, the situation changed and it changed from one extreme to another. Historical weather patterns and forecasts are seemingly irrelevant when it comes to predicting what will happen next in Australia but as the dust settles and the conditions return to some sort of normality we thought we could start to take a look at the 2020 season. Then there was Coronavirus!

I mention the dreaded Covid-19, not because it will impact the crops or the harvesting like Mother Nature but it will and seemingly already has, impacted the market demand.

There has been a careful assessment of the expectations of this year’s crop due to the amount of suffering that has gone before us. For them most part the growing areas for Tea Tree where spared any significant damage during the bushfires but for a time restrictions on irrigation and pesticide controls looked like it could have an impact. Then there has been some serious flooding in the area but with the exception of some unfortunate farms the damage has been limited. Despite Tea Tree being a resilient plant all of these stresses will take its toll on re-growth expectations, following a disappointing 2019 campaign which left plenty of damage. Production levels in 2019 had dropped around 40% on the previous year and it was somewhat fortunate that due to the global slowdown of the industry demand dipped, especially the aromatherapy sector, otherwise the supply conditions would have been troublesome. This year it is estimated we will see a crop close to 750MT, give or take 50MT each side as we still have a few months to go before some start to harvest.

Despite expecting a better year than last this figure is no more than the average for the past 4 years and owing to last years low production and the recent spike in demand during the CV-19 outbreak there is zero carry over to support the market. In fact many farms have pre-sold their 2020 crops in recent weeks as it is widely anticipated that demand will be greater than supply.