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Italy: Piedmont hazelnuts between new challenges and opportunities

The Amministrazione Comunale di Castagnole Lanze (AT) once again organised the Fiera della Nocciola (Hazelnut Fair), which has reached its 158th edition. The fair also included a convention that discussed the cultivation, commercialisation and processing of hazelnuts.  

The event was organised in collaboration with Asti's Cia and President Alessandro Durando also took part. The meeting was opened by the Mayor of Castagnole Lanze, Carlo Mancuso, and by Councillor for Agriculture Mario Coppa.

This year, the convention focused on the profitability of hazelnut groves deriving from agronomic choices, also attained by pursuing an overall high-quality objective, as this crop is the second most important in local agriculture.

Professors from University of Turin's Disafa also intervened as well as Agrion technicians, producers, operators and institutions. 

Piero Mollea from Ditta Marchisio Nocciole in Cortemilia talked about the 2017 campaign. "We deal with processing, so we are basically intermediaries between producers and final users. We try to understand the market and find common ground between those who process the produce and those who grow it." 

"Groves have grown exponentially over the past few years, not only in Italy but in Turkey, Georgia and Azerbaijan as well. Hazelnuts are considered an alternative to less profitable crops."

"There are companies that focus only on this fruit and are supporting its growth, but it's also important for it not to become off-market."

An overview of the general situation reveals that Turkey has produced quite a lot in 2017 - after a year with low volumes, over 700 thousand tons are expected. Another 100 thousand tons remaining from the 2016 harvest will be used to make semi-processed products and oil. Azerbaijan and Georgia are on the up and together produce around 100 thousand tons.

Italian production is expected to be quite low this year due to the adverse weather and problems generated by the brown marmorated stink bug. Campania produced less than 45 thousand tons when it can reach up to 70 thousand in normal years. In Viterbo, frost damaged production shrinking it to 25 thousand tons. Piedmont is expecting half of last year's production, i.e. 13-14 thousand tons.

The effects of the brown marmorated stink bug must not be underestimated, as the insects spread everywhere. It will not be possible to process some batches, even though 3-4 treatments against it have been carried out.

"We will do everything we can to separate suitable from unsuitable batches, but the important thing is to find a solution as quickly as possible, otherwise consumers will no longer perceive hazelnuts from Piedmont as a high-quality production. As production is scarce and some of the produce will not be processed, the best fruits will sell at €300-350 for 100 kg."

Stefano Massaglia from Disafa illustrated the management costs of one hectare dividing them into categories: machinery, labour and technical means.

Three types of companies were analysed - 12 to 25 hectares, 3 to 10 hectares and cooperatives.

"The data shows that the cost of machinery is what mostly weighs on management costs (between 43 and 47%). The average management cost of a hazelnut grove can vary between €1400/ha for cooperatives and €3200/ha for the smaller companies. But let's keep in mind these data refer to 2014, when the brown marmorated stink bug wasn't so much of a problem. The next objective will be to analyse the incidence of this insect on treatment costs."

Leading production areas in Italy.

"Piedmont groves represent almost 2% of global hazelnut crops and 3.8% of global volumes. If someone needs hazelnuts, are we sure they will always come to us? What we need is a system both in Piedmont and in Italy, as working together is the only way to be competitive."

This is what Claudio Sonnati from Agrion said while considering the importance of hazelnut cultivation both in Piedmont and Italy, stressing the need to be organised on a regional level. Groves in Piedmont exceed 23 thousand hectares, i.e. 49% of the agricultural land dedicated to fruit cultivation, with 10 thousand companies located mainly in the provinces of Cuneo, Asti and Alessandria. 

Secondo Scanavino, President of Cia, and Alessandro Mastrocinque, Vice-President of Cia and President of Cia Campania, stressed the importance of operators and institutions working together. Institutions were represented by regional councillor Giorgio Ferrero and MP Giacomino "Mino" Taricco.

The official price of the produce (i.e. €335/quintal) was established at the end of the meeting and the winners of the quantity/quality categories for producers located in the "Tra Langa e Monferrato" area were also announced. 

Thanks to Ditta Marchisio Nocciole in Cortemilia, money prizes were distributed to the top 10 ranking participants based on four criteria: humidity, de-hulled yields, grades, flavour (roasted hazelnuts).

The ranking in the quantity category was: Cavallo Giacomo, Negro Pietro, Tibaldi Alessandro, Marchisio Franco, Merlino Dario. The ranking in the quality category was: Negro Maria Luigina, Beccaris Stefano, Bera Marco, Fogliati Monica and Borio Luciano.

Publication date: 8/31/2017


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