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Oregon hazelnut crop expected to be off 20 percent

September 8, 2014

EUGENE, Ore. (AP) — Amid a potential global shortfall in hazelnut production, Oregon groves are expected to yield about 20 percent less this year.

The upshot: rising prices for the nut sometimes known as the filbert that’s found favor in recent years.

“I think the consumer is going to be able to find them, but they might be a little more expensive,” said Oregon grower Gene Tinker.

A federal government forecast is for a harvest of about 36,000 tons in Oregon, down from last year’s 45,000 tons, the Eugene Register-Guard (http://bit.ly/1ojU7r2) reported.

The recent high, 47,000 tons, was from 2009.

Oregon produces 99 percent of the domestic crop of hazelnuts. But that’s only 5 percent of the world production.

Globally, Turkey has been the big player, with a share of production estimated at more than 70 percent, said Mike Klein of the Hazelnut Marketing Board.

Klein said a severe freeze in Turkey this spring may have reduced the harvest there to 500,000 tons, down from 700,000 to 800,000 tons.

Turkey doesn’t have a reliable forecast system, so the yield won’t be known until after the harvest, Klein said.

He said U.S. figures are reliable, produced by a U.S. Agriculture Department agency, the National Agricultural Statistics Service. The forecast for this year’s crop was generated last month.

Tinker said hazelnuts are inherently cyclical, with a light year typically following a heavy one. He farms near Jasper, southeast of Springfield.

Recently Oregon’s No. 1 market has been China, which in some years has bought 60 to 75 percent of Oregon’s crop to be eaten as a snack, straight out of the shell, Klein said.

Now with the expected smaller Turkish harvest, makers of chocolate hazelnut spread such as Nutella, ice cream products and baked goods are turning to Oregon suppliers.

That could put pressure on Chinese buyers, Klein said: “If the food manufacturing companies in the U.S. can’t get their supplies from overseas, as they might have in prior years, they’re going to turn to Oregon.”


Information from: The Register-Guard, http://www.registerguard.com

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