The main hazelnut producing countries are Turkey, Italy, Spain, USA and Greece. Although hazelnut is also produced in the Former Soviet Union, Iran, Romania and France, these countries do not have a major input in the world hazelnut trade. Turkey is the first world hazelnut producer and exporter. In addition, it covers approximately 70 percent and 82 percent of the world`s production and export respectively. It is followed by Italy with nearly 20 percent in production and 15 percent in export.
The world hazelnut production shows fluctuations depending on the climatic conditions from year to year. Overall, world production has increased in parallel with Turkey's production. While Turkey's average inshell production is 350-400 000 t, this value has reached up to 500 000 t in recent years. The production of Italy and Spain, additional important producing countries, varies between 100-125 000 and 15-25 000 t respectively. The USA consumes most of its own hazelnut production and also imports hazelnut kernel for the industry to meet its home demand. However, it has become a table hazelnut exporting country by increasing its production in recent years (25 000 t).
Among the producing countries, hazelnut consumption per person and year is highest in Italy (0.520 kg kernel/person). According to 1993 data, Greece is second (0.369 kg kernel/person) and Turkey is third (0.250 kg kernel/person). Worldwide, the highest hazelnut consumption per person and year is reached in Switzerland (2.096 kg kernel/person). Switzerland is followed by Austria, Belgium, Germany and Luxembourg.
The world hazelnut exports show fluctuations according to world hazelnut production. Germany is the most important hazelnut importing country in the world and covers approximately 35 percent of the total world import. Though Italy is the second largest producing country in the world, it meets an important part of its chocolate industry demand with Turkey's production. While Switzerland shows a stable rate of import, France, Austria, Belgium and Luxembourg are noted as countries which have increased the hazelnut import in recent years
Turkey is a bridge between Asia and Europe in the northern hemisphere and has coast on three sides. Hazelnut is one of the most important nut crops in the world and has its origins in the centre of Anatolia. Wild species are found in Anatolia which have provided the source for today's cultivated varieties.
Hazelnut is grown in both the eastern and western regions of Turkey along the Black Sea, in areas where the soil is unsuitable for other crops and on sharply sloping soils (steeps higher than 20 percent). An additional benefit for hazelnut growing areas with high rainfall, is the crop's ability to prevent soil erosion. Approximately two to three million growers (5 percent of the nation's population) depend on hazelnut growing for their income and it is therefore easy to understand the strategic value of hazelnut production in the social and economic structure of this region.
Turkey to date, is so far the world's leading hazelnut producer, accounting for about 72.9 percent of the total world supply. About 60 percent of the crop is produced in the Eastern Black Sea Region, 15 percent is produced in the Central Region and the remaining 25 percent is produced in the Western Black Sea Region.
Turkey's 1997 hazelnut harvest was 480 000 t. The weather was usual for most of the early growing season. However, hot, dry weather during June and July adversely affected the crop, thus reducing yields.
The handling of hazelnut after harvest can be described as having two stages. In the first stage, the shell is cracked and the kernel separated. In the second stage, the kernel may undergo a variety of processes namely: blanching, roasting, slicing, mincing, pulverising or being made into a paste.
One hundred and sixty processing plants for hazelnut shelling presently operate in Turkey with a capacity of 1 271 250 t per year. The export of processed shelled hazelnut has risen proportionally with the increase in this processing capacity and presently 25-30 percent of the total exported hazelnut are processed products.
Turkey accounts for more than 80 percent of the world's hazelnut trade. Europe is the major market for Turkish hazelnuts. The Hazelnut Exporters Union continues to assess the possibility of expanding exports to new markets in the Far East, North America, including the United States, and countries of the Former Soviet Union.
Italy's hazelnut production is 110 000 t. The Italian hazelnut growing area is expected to remain stable in the near future, while production will depend mainly on weather conditions, as well as on the alternate bearing of the trees. The hazelnut industry is concentrated in four regions: Campania comprising approximately 50 percent and the remaining production being in Piemonte, Latium and Sicily.
Hazelnut production in Piemonte represents 10 percent of the total Italian production of about 10 000 t. The other producing regions are Campania (50 percent), Latium (28 percent) and Sicily (12 percent). In Piemonte there are three provinces where hazelnut is grown, i.e. Cuneo, in the south-west of Piemonte, where about 80 percent of the total is produced, Asti, in the central-south (15 percent) and Alexandria, in the south-east (5 percent). This hazelnut growing area includes different hilly areas in the south of the region called Langhe, Roero and Monferrato, with an altitude of between 250 and 700 m.
The most important cultivars are native, i.e. `Tonda di Giffoni' in Latium, `Mortarella', `San Giovanni', `Camponica', `Riccia di Talanico', `Tonda Bianca' and `Tonda Rossa' in Campania, `Tonda Gentile delle Langhe' in Piemonte and `Santa Maria de Jesu' in Sicily.
In 1996/1997, hazelnut export from Italy was forecasted to double to 50 000 t based on the expected production recovery.
The USA produces approximately 25-30 000 t of inshell hazelnut in Oregon and it also imports nearly 4 000 t. Turkey supplies on average 95 percent of its hazelnut import for industry.
The USA hazelnut production in 1997 was estimated at 42 000 t. A severe December wind storm which considerably damaged many limbs, freezing weather in February and adverse flooding, affected the crop. Furthermore, cool and wet weather conditions during pollination limited nut set.
Hazelnut export from the USA is increasing competition with probably higher Italian export. Italian hazelnut is of a higher quality than the USA's standards and thus can easily enter traditional USA markets in the EU. Turkey has supplied most of the USA hazelnut import, mainly as a shelled product. As the hazelnut production of the USA comes from the Oregon State, this region has been very efficient in setting hazelnut prices.
The USA bakery, breakfast cereal and confectionery industries use domestic and imported hazelnut. Companies in these sectors often convert shelled hazelnuts to paste for use as an ingredient.
Spain ranks fourth in world hazelnut production after Turkey, Italy and the USA. Its 1997 inshell production was 18 000 t. Catalonia, in the north-east, is the main producing region of Spain and within this region, the province of Tarragona stands out as the largest growing area (27 000 ha), representing 90 percent of the total Spanish hazelnut growing land.
Tarragona's orchards, topographically can be classified into two groups. Firstly, the orchards of the inland mountain ranges of the province (Priorat), located on hilly slopes, with a low mechanisation level, dry farming (around 400 mm of annual rainfall) and low production (500-800 kg/ha) and with a tendency to decrease. Secondly, the flat area orchards of the region called Camp de Tarragona are located near to the Mediterranean coast and are highly mechanised, with high production (2 000-2 500 kg/ha) and modern cultivation techniques. The main commercial hazelnut production is obtained from the second area.
The most important cultivars are native, i.e. `Negret' (70 percent), `Gironell', `Pauetet', `Culplà', `Morell', `Grifoll', `Trenet' and Ribet. However, in recent years, in irrigated orchards, `Pauetet' has been widely used. Some Italian cultivars (`Tonda di Giffoni', `Tonda Romana' and `San Giovanni') stand out for their high yields and commercial value.
The bulk of the hazelnut crop is consumed in shelled form. The confectionery and chocolate industries use about 60 to 70 percent of domestic supplies. Hazelnut is also used for snacks and is often marketed as snack packs. Hazelnut is marketed in Spain throughout the year in competition with almonds, peanuts and other snack foods. In years when almond prices are high, hazelnut demand in the confectionery industry increases. Hazelnut export from Spain is diminishing while import is rising.
Ninety percent of hazel orchards are located in the Southwest of France. With the help of the French Ministry of Agriculture, 50-100 ha are planted annually. Since 1972 2 500 ha of hazelnut have been planted, mainly in Aquitaine and Midi-Pyrenees, apart from the Garonne valley.
Today, the varietal structure of the French orchard is: `Ennis' (26 percent), `Fertile de Coutard' (22 percent), `Segorbe' (16 percent), `Corabel' (12 percent) and `Pauetet' (8 percent).
France imports 16 000 t of kernels and about 1 500 t of inshell nuts per year. These hazelnuts are imported from Turkey, Italy and Spain, mainly through the port of Marseille.
As the French hazel orchards are young, crop production is increasing quickly (1 600 t in 1987, 2 200 t in 1989, inshell) and 3 500 t in 1996. This value is one tenth of the French hazelnut import. The exportation of inshell nuts larger than 20 mm for table consumption, is developing mainly towards Germany (1 500 t on average during the last three years).