Oregon hazelnut growers suffer from oversupply


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    Oregon hazelnut growers will receive a starting minimum price of 96.5 cents a pound for their crop this fall, the Hazelnut Growers Bargaining Association announced Tuesday.

    The price, agreed on with the help of a mediator by the association and area packers, was down considerably from last year’s starting price of $1.18 a pound.

    “The price is lower than probably the growers were expecting,” said Doug Olsen, the association’s president. “But that is where the market came out, and it is a good place to start so we can move this crop.”

    The initial minimum price is a starting point, and in some years, it moves up.

    Turkey leads the world in hazel­nut production.

    Oregon produces nearly all of the hazelnuts in the United States, but it accounts for only 3 to 4 percent of the world’s supply.

    Several factors combined to push down the initial minimum price this year, including a “massive” Turkish crop, said Terry Ross, the association’s executive director, who represented growers in the negotiations.

    This year’s Turkish crop is expected to reach about 750,000 tons, which is up 150,000 to 200,000 tons from last year, Ross said.

    Plus, the quality of the Turkish hazelnuts “is really good,” he said.

    The value of the Turkish lira continues to fall against the dollar, which makes Turkish hazelnuts a better buy for international buyers, to the detriment of Oregon hazelnut growers.

    Oregon exports about half of its annual crop to inter­national markets, such as Europe and China.

    In August, national agricultural experts predicted that Oregon will produce 36,000 tons of hazelnuts this year, down 18 percent from 44,000 tons last year.

    It’s doubly disappointing to Oregon growers that hazelnuts will fetch a lower starting price than last year and that the crop is smaller than last year, Ross said.

    But that is the reality in the worldwide system of supply and demand, he said.

    This year’s starting minimum price of 96.5 cents a pound for hazelnuts pales in comparison to the 2014 record price of $1.70 a pound, but it is about average when compared with starting minimum prices during the past 10 to 15 years, Ross said.

    Oregon’s hazelnut crop tends to be cyclical — down one year, up the next.

    Experts predict this year’s Ore­gon crop will be smaller than last year’s even though the number of acres growing hazelnuts has increased from last year. The association estimates that hazelnut trees are planted on about 75,000 acres in Oregon, and trees on about 45,000 of those acres are producing nuts.

    The number of acres in Ore­gon producing hazelnuts is up from about 25,000 acres 10 years ago and 32,000 acres five years ago, Ross said.

    Many growers have responded to Eastern filbert blight, a deadly fungus that has decimated hazel­nut orchards, by replacing diseased trees with younger disease-­resistant varieties.

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