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Aussie chestnut growers set for an earlier season

Australian chestnut growers are expecting a premium harvest, with the long-term weather forecast expected to prime trees for an earlier start to the season.

While the Australian chestnut season typically runs from mid-March until around July, Chestnuts Australia Inc’s Industry Development Officer Trevor M. Ranford says the forecast of a hot dry summer could see the next season start sooner in some regions.

“A lot depends on weather conditions to a large degree, so we’re really only talking a few weeks earlier at this stage,” he says.

“In terms of volume, again it’s an estimation at this stage, but the general figures are between 1000 and 1200 tonnes across Australia, fairly similar to last season at this point in time.”



In preparation for the season, Chestnuts Australia Inc is releasing a number of resources for media outlets and retailers to help develop more awareness of these versatile nuts.

“The demand for nuts in general has been increasing quite dramatically over the past few years and chestnuts have been a part of that,” Mr Ranford says. “Obviously chestnuts are a bit different in that you have to cook them in some form, so creating awareness of that is part of the plan.”

He says the domestic chestnut industry in Australia has an opportunity to educate consumers on how chestnuts can be used in a fresh form, or cooked and stored in the freezer and used at any time of year.

“They’re a versatile nut in that way,” he says, adding that the traditional uses of chestnuts are new for many Australians.

“The idea of roasting [chestnuts] is relatively new to most Australians. Chestnuts have really only come out of the Mediterranean parts of Europe and Chinese and other traditional Asian cultures,” he says.

“So roasting chestnuts is really something many Australians haven’t experienced, and that gives retailers an opportunity for events, such as in-store roastings and tastings.”

Chestnuts Australia will also be releasing a 12-page recipe leaflet closer to the start of the season, and maintains a strong presence and cultural festivals in Australia, such as the La Fiera Italian Festival in Myrtleford Victoria.

“I think there’s been a conscious understanding of importance of European and, more recently, the Asian cultures that have traditionally used chestnuts,” Mr Ranford says.

“The industry has worked hard to develop that side of the market and continues to work hard to build usage of nuts into these ethnic groups in Australia. We’re also looking at a new market of younger Australians that are very conscious of their food and that like to cook at home.”

There are currently about 1000 hectares of chestnuts grown around Australia, with some growers shifting their focus away from other crops to focus on the chestnut market. The Australian nuts are primarily sold in the domestic market, with both fresh and pre-packed options.



“Another opportunity the industry has is to value add, by processing chestnuts into anything from flour to whole nuts that are cooked and sealed in vacuum-packs or frozen,” Mr Ranford says.

He says there is also scope for Australian chestnut growers to export to other countries in the future, particularly parts of Asia and Europe where local supplies may be affected by different environmental challenges and diseases that are less common in Australia.

For more information:

Trevor M. Ranford

Chestnuts Australia Inc

Tel: +61 417 809 172
Email: sahort@bigpond.com
www.chestnutsaustralia.com.au

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