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Current Position:Home » News » Special Foods » Topic

Australian chestnut industry recovering after tough few years

Zoom in font  Zoom out font Published: 2017-05-15  Views: 8
Core Tip: Australia's chestnut industry is confident production has returned to normal after two years of quality issues with internal rotting.
Australia's chestnut industry is confident production has returned to normal after two years of quality issues with internal rotting.

Chestnut Australia President Brian Casey estimates that between 10-20 per cent of produce was affected, and says, while the damage was isolated to some growers, it threatened the industry's name overall. Fortunately the vast majority of the growers have recovered, and so far there has been no to minimal impact this year.

"Over the last couple of years there were some instances where the nuts did show some internal rots, which was a negative for the market in the places where they experienced it," Mr Casey said. "We were concerned that if that continued we'd have had a softening of demand. We got some feedback from the wholesalers that some of the buyers expressed some disappointment in the nuts that they bought - only some nuts though. This year, the early signs are positive."

Mr Casey says the weather has also helped both production and sales. Despite a small hot dry patch in February and March, crops have been receiving cool weather and rain, which is not only ideal for growing, but marketing.

"When we get an Indian summer, it can be quite warm in April, it's a bit harder to sell the chestnuts then, because they are a cold winter food," he said. "People are more encouraged to eat chestnuts in the cool weather. If you have got hot winds and it's humid, people don't like sitting around and having hot roasted chestnuts."

Chestnuts are at the peak of the harvest, and Chestnuts Australia says they are moving quickly through the wholesale markets, with prices quite firm. Mr Casey says growers could even be boosted by an increase if quality is there over the coming weeks, as harvesting finishes and supply dries up.

While demand is high, Chestnuts Australia is not expecting a major increase in production, with only small scale planting going on, mostly from existing growers expanding. But, notwithstanding the rotting issues in the past 24 months, demand for the product is increasing.

"We used to find that product would be backed up at the market for days," Mr Casey said. "But those days appear to be gone. Stock is clearing through the market place fairly quickly at a reasonably good price. Demand is strong enough to take up the production we are producing at the moment. If we have a few good years, hopefully production will increase."

Around 90 per cent of chestnuts are sold on the domestic markets, with the occasional shipment overseas. But Mr Casey recognises that international trade, with Europe, America and Asia, is a massive potential opportunity, as the industry grows.

"If there are large increases in production, it is pretty clear we will have to develop export markets," he said. "The domestic market will, quickly become oversupplied. Most of the other horticultural industries have an export sector, so we think it's out there. We just need to coordinate it."

The increase in demand has coincided with the chestnut industry launching a new campaign with the help of industry marketing levy funds, which so far appears to be working.

"It's very hard to measure, but everything we are hearing is telling us there is increased demand," Mr Casey said. "We always say if you have one or more parents born overseas, you'll pretty much have an understanding of chestnuts, in the Northern Hemisphere in particular. If both parents are born in Australia, then you probably won't know much about chestnuts. They're the people we are targeting."
 
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