A group of Australian farmers have been given a government grant to establish a tea-growing co-op at Mangrove Mountain, New South Wales.
The $100,000 awarded by the coalition government will allow the Australian Green Tea Co-op to invest in farmers’ operations around the Central Coast town, 50 miles north of Sydney.
The organisation is now looking for 10 farmers to join the venture and hopes to build a major tea processing and packing facility on the Central Coast.
A six-hectare organic plantation is already producing 30 tonnes a year of Aracha green tea, for export to Japan and it is hoped the tea-growing potential of the region can be developed further.
“This funding will allow the Australia Green Tea Co-operative to improve marketing, and the corporate consolidation required to develop their business,” said Lucy Wicks, federal member for Robertson.
“That business will provide farmers in the Mangrove Mountain plateau with the opportunity to plant, harvest and sell their goods to an overseas market.”
The Farming Together Grant is part of investment being made by the government to help groups of farmers, including those on the Central Coast, adopt collaborative and co-operative business models.
“This investment gives farmers the skills and resources to take greater control of the supply chain and achieve economies of scale, including negotiating prices for their goods,” Mrs Wicks said.
John Robb, founder of the Australian Green Tea Co-op, said the region had enormous potential. “Co-operatives like this could open up a whole new industry of production and tourism to the Central Coast. Mangrove Mountain could be the green tea equivalent to the Hunter Valley’s wine region,” he said. “The quality of tea produced in the Mangrove Mountain plateau is equal to, if not better than that produced in Japan.”
The establishment of the co-operative will provide a framework for mutually beneficial collaboration to further the emerging green tea industry on the Central Coast with a view to expanding across Australia.
“We envisage that the Australian Green Tea Co-operative will serve as a support facility for all members of the co-op,” said Mr Robb. “We will create the initial processing and packaging facility so that members can commence farming and production of the crop.”
The funding was also welcomed by Regional Development Australia Central Coast chief executive John Mouland.
“This is exactly the type of agricultural industry that we want to see on the Central Coast that not only provides an alternative crop for farmers but also cements the Central Coast as an industry leader in tea production,” he said. “This grant will allow the Central Coast to open up to export opportunities that will create additional jobs on the Central Coast.”
Australian Green Tea Pty Limited (AGTL) has been formed to be a “centre of excellence” and catalyst for this new, emerging industry, in terms of coordinating all interested parties. This includes continuing research in alternative processing and transportation technologies as well as breeding better yielding plants, all of which could be exported throughout the tea cultivation world.
Over the past 15 years, attempts have been made to establish Green Tea plantations in Tasmania, Victoria, Western Australia and New South Wales.