Western Farm Press Logo

Hazelnuts: Declining prices, declining acreage

‘We saw decreases, not only in hazelnuts, but in other tree nuts as well,’ industry official says.

Lee Allen, Contributing Writer

March 2, 2023

2 Min Read
hazlenut orchard
The hazelnut industry in Oregon expected a 2022 harvest of about 80,000 tons, but only about 76,000 tons was produced.Tim Hearden

Strong determination masked many of the glum faces at this year’s winter meeting of the Nut Growers Society at Oregon State University.

“I’d describe it as ‘fairly-well-attended’,” said Terry Ross of the Hazelnut Growers Bargaining Association. “A lot of farmers in the Willamette Valley are dealing with depressed prices on a lot of different crops and they’re not as eager to show up to industry meetings as they have been in the past. That acknowledged, the group that did show engaged in a fruitful exchange of lots of information dealing with increases in production costs and decreases in pricing.”

Appropriately relevant topics for discussion included pricing for the 2022 harvest, even as those numbers plunged. “We saw decreases, not only in hazelnuts, but in other tree nuts as well, although pricing is now starting to show some improvement as the USDA bought a significant portion of our hazelnut crop for some of their food pantry projects. We hope we’ve reached the bottom and things will start to slowly show an incremental increase because at this minimal pricing, not many growers can make a living.”

Ross’s contention is that inflation is starting to cool off and production costs are beginning to decrease, so “perhaps there’s a soft landing to this recession that creates some cautious optimism that nut consumption will improve along with some pricing increases.”

Because Oregon, over the last century, has relied on roughly a thousand families to plant and tend some 95,000-100,000 acres, what they produce for the world market makes a difference. “When we set the price last September, we estimated harvest would weigh out at about 80,000 tons. The anecdotal estimates from growers and packers will probably end up being closer to last year’s crop that topped out at upwards of 76,000 tons or more.”

No advantage

Asked how the health of the Oregon hazelnut industry looked moving into a new grow year, Ross paused before answering. “We didn’t expect other nut growers pricing to decline at the same time, so even as our price went down, we didn’t gain any advantage over other tree nut products --- the unfortunate situation applied to everyone.”

Looking at maintaining or even increasing hazelnut production over a 5-year short run remains dubious. “There’s potential over the next two years that you could see acreage decline as older, blighted orchards are removed at a much more rapid pace than has been in the past, with little increase in new acreage to offset that decline. I’d say it’s possible acreage will go backwards from what we have now and unless prices correct, somebody will end up exiting the marketplace because today’s pricing is not sustainable.”

Bottom line: “Oregon produces high-quality, high-production and should come out fairly well, but it’s going to be painful in the short run. If we can’t correct prices back to the 60 to 75 cent range by the 2023 crop, it will be another pretty difficult year.”

Read more about:


About the Author(s)

Subscribe to receive top agriculture news
Be informed daily with these free e-newsletters

You May Also Like