Why Grow Hazelnuts?
With so few areas of the world contributing to hazelnut production, and demand growing for the crop as its benefits become more widely recognised, growers in BC have an opportunity. It is already known that the Fraser Valley, Okanagan, Gulf Islands, and Vancouver Island regions of BC feature a rare combination of ideal conditions for hazelnut crops to thrive. BCHGA hopes to see even more regions identified as we are currently closely following the progress of crops already planted in other areas.
New varieties of hazelnuts currently being evaluated by BCHGA in variety trials, are showing great promise for disease-resistance and yield. In addition, the BCHGA, with funding from the Abbotsford Community Foundation, is partnering with University of the Fraser Valley to develop value-added processing equipment and promote hazelnuts as a crop in BC.
There are many benefits to growing hazelnuts:
High-value, low-input, and sustainable crop
Require less water, sequester more carbon, and reduce soil erosion and nitrogen pollution
A perennial crop suitable for small and large lot farms
Orchards can accommodate the growth of other crops between the tree rows
Excess hazelnuts offer high-value livestock feed
Early source of pollen for bees
Trees offer natural wind and snow breaks
Preserve agricultural diversity and food security in BC
An attractive crop which can increase property value
Horticultural demand for beauty, shade and privacy
As a product, hazelnuts offer many benefits:
In high demand both locally and globally
Non-perishable off the tree, unlike other fruit crops
A delicious and highly nutritious product for food markets
A high-quality alternative protein source
Source of hazelnut meal; used as wheat alternative, or high quality human and animal feed
Source of hazelnut oil; used as cooking oil, mechanical lubricant, and bio-fuel
Has a growing number of applications outside the food and beverage industry
Give BC consumers another opportunity to 'buy local'
We’re here to help!
Learn more about the benefits BCHGA membership can provide to you as a grower.
Hazelnuts are in high demand!
The current primary industries purchasing hazelnuts are the food and beverage industry, pharmaceuticals industry and cosmetics industry. Consumers see hazelnuts most prominently in flavoured milks and hot drinks, and in snack foods and confectionery such as nut bars, pralines, chocolate truffles, and hazelnut paste products.
The world’s largest buyer of hazelnuts, buying approximately 25% of world production, is Ferrero SpA, makers of Nutella, Ferrero Rocher, and Kinder Surprise. Ferrero’s Canadian plant alone quadrupled in size between 2004 and 2014!
Hazelnuts are grown in very few areas around the world
According to statistics released by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization in 2014, 63% of the world’s production of hazelnuts (450,000 tonnes), came from Turkey. After this region, Italy, Georgia, and the United States were the next highest contributors, producing 75,500 tonnes, 37,400 tonnes, and 32,700 tonnes respectively. In each of these countries, the specific growing region for hazelnuts is a limited to small, individual regions.
Currently in North America, the Willamette Valley of Oregon is the top producing region, supplying 99% of the US crop and 3-5% of the global crop.
There is great potential for BC hazelnuts!
The BC Hazelnut Growers Association believes there is significant potential for renewed hazelnut production in the Fraser Valley, Okanagan, Gulf Islands, and Vancouver Island. These areas are uniquely suited for this crop because of their mild, yet adequately chilling winters.
Demand is expected to increase steadily over the next decade as traditional product consumption increases, and new use avenues open up as the nutritional and agricultural benefits of hazelnuts become more widely recognized. As climatic events have an impact on global supply, processors and consumers are going to be looking for suppliers to fill the void.
A challenge to the hazelnut industry in BC is the management of Eastern Filbert Blight (EFB), a fungus infection that impairs the hazelnut tree’s ability to produce nut crop. At its peak, prior to the arrival of EFB on the west coast of the continent, BC had about 1,200 acres of hazelnuts, with over 800 acres in the Fraser Valley alone, yielding on average 1,012,000 pounds per year (2006-2010 average). Most BC hazelnut orchards have now been removed, as they were heavily diseased, and the harvest has declined to less than 40,000 lbs, leaving the industry in a state of under-supply.
This, however, presents an opportunity. Through collaborative research and development of new EFB-resistant cultivars both in Canada and in the US, the industry is poised to make a strong recovery. Locally, the BCHGA is working with industry partners to promote and support the revitalization of the hazelnut industry in BC.
Hazelnuts are produced by trees and shrubs of the genus Corylus of which there are 10 to 20 species worldwide, with commercial production almost entirely based on selections from the wild. In North America the native species are Corylus cornuta, which is native to much of North America, with two recognized varieties (cornuta and californica), and C. americana, which is native only to eastern North America and is the primary host for the fungus causing EFB, while remaining without symptoms itself. These native species produce small and few nuts, but have been useful in breeding programs to pass on hardiness and disease resistance.
Considerable research has gone into the development of new disease resistant varieties that show great promise for leading the way towards the revitalization of BC’s hazelnut industry. Fifty years of selective breeding (at Oregon State University) has produced several excellent, EFB-resistant cultivars that look very promising in BC trials. And the Oregon industry is currently booming!
If you are already a grower or are thinking of starting an orchard or hobby-plantation, see our Growers Resources page for other helpful information.
Resources for Growers
Summary of New Varieties: