Turkey's hazelnut exports jumped 75% year-on-year in September, the first month of the season, vice president of the Black Sea Hazelnut and Products Exporters' Union said, as the industry recovered from flash floods that devastated Turkey's hazelnut farms last year.
"Around 46,000 tons of hazelnut were exported in a month," Dursun Oğuz Gürsoy told Anadolu Agency, speaking at the world's largest food fair – Anuga 2019 – in Cologne, Germany.
"If we continue with this pace, we can export 310,000 tons of hazelnuts by the end of 2019-2020 season," he said.
Gürsoy noted that the union forecast 800,000 tons of hazelnut production between September 2018 and August 2019, thanks to good yield.
Last August, flash floods devastated the Black Sea region, where most of the country's hazelnuts are grown, destroying much of the season's crop.
Turkey has 179,893 acres of hazelnut trees and produces between 500,000 and 900,000 tons of hazelnuts annually.
Gürsoy said that urbanization in Turkey's Black Sea region is causing a decrease in production as more farmers and potential producers move into cities.
He also cited the issue of aging orchards, which have decreased yield. New orchards, in addition to being costly and labor-intensive endeavors, also require four to five years to begin yielding hazelnuts.
To combat threats to the industry, Gürsoy said Turkish farmers should plant high-yield, climate change-resistant varieties of hazelnut trees. The Exporters' Association is partnering with the Hazelnut Research Institute in the Black Sea province of Giresun to produce these varieties, he noted.
In addition to finding new markets for hazelnut exports, Gürsoy also said Turkey's market needs to strive to export more hazelnuts in a processed, value-added form, rather than raw.
"Unfortunately, today Turkey sells 57% of its hazelnuts in the natural form and the rest is sold in processed form. We need to change this rate. If we sell hazelnuts in processed form – such as chocolate, pastry and biscuits – we will be able to provide $5-6 billion in return to our country in the long run," Gürsoy explained.
Turkey, the world's largest hazelnut exporter, earned $1.78 billion in the 2017-2018 season with nearly 287,000 tons of hazelnut exports from September 2017 through August 2018.