Hazelnuts are regarded as a health food, being high in monounsaturated fats, oleic acid, protein, vitamin E, calcium and potassium. Hazelnuts can be eaten whole, raw or roasted; or they may be crushed or ground and used as an ingredient in confectionery and baked goods.
Hazelnuts have been grown commercially, but not to a large extent, in Australia for over 100 years. Interest in hazelnut production reignited in the 1970s, with a new suite of varieties introduced and some level of industry coordination was achieved by the 1990s. However, hazelnut production in Australia has only averaged about 170 tonnes per year and there has been a market deficit between local production and estimated domestic market requirements. In late 2013, a large global confectioner announced a AU$70 million hazelnut project in Australia. The group, which makes chocolates and hazelnut spread, planted one million hazelnut trees on 2,600 hectares in the Riverina of New South Wales. This significantly dwarfs the previous total industry growth target of 200ha by 2015, as estimated by the Australian Nut Industry Council.
Hazelnut production is a small and developing industry in Australia, and its growers are represented by the Hazelnut Growers of Australia.
Facts and figures
- Hazelnuts were introduced into Australia more than 150 years ago
- Hazelnuts have traditionally been a crop for cool temperate regions of southern Australia, however a very large orchard was planted in 2014 in the warm temperate region of western New South Wales
- Hazelnuts can be used whole as a table food, or processed in a range of confectionery and bakery products
- Global production is approximately 800,000 tonnes, 54% of which was produced in Turkey
Nearly 800,000 tonnes of hazelnuts were produced globally. Turkey accounted for 54% of world production for that period. Other important production areas include Italy, Spain and Oregon in the United States of America.
Australia is estimated to produce 60 tonnes of hazelnut kernels, and imports about 2,000 tonnes of kernels.
As at 2012, there were about 130 hectares planted to hazelnuts in Australia. In 2013, an international company planted 2,000 hectares in the New South Wales Riverina for hazelnut production.
Hazelnut production in Australia occurs at several levels. There are commercial-scale growers with between 1,000,000 and 1,000 trees, as well as smaller producers with less than 1,000 trees. Hazelnut enterprises are often combined with other agricultural enterprises or pursued as a part-time enterprise or a hobby, rather than a main income source.