Chairman’s report, 2011

Delivered to the 2011 AGM, 3 June 2011

By Murray Redpath

Earthquakes and extreme weather events, both in New Zealand and globally, will have dominated our thoughts over the last year. Christchurch and Canterbury will never be the same and our best wishes for a timely recovery go out to all those affected by the quake and the continuing fallout. The hazel industry escaped any physical damage but the economic repercussions are likely to mean limited access to Government assistance in the immediate future.

Our industry is maturing and facing the sort of challenges that all new crops face as they grow and have to move into new market sectors. As usual, moving into markets that require large quantities move us into those sectors where prices are determined by international market prices and that price is usually lower than in local niche markets. We have to ensure that we are cost efficient growers to supply these markets and still be profitable.

To be cost efficient growers we need to be sure that we are managing our orchards correctly and to do that we need information on as many factors that influence our nut yields and quality as we can collect. Please support our research projects so we can find out what is happening in our orchards and provide accurate advice back to all growers.

We are part of a global market and we cannot ignore developments in hazel industries overseas or assume that they will not impact our local markets. New confidence in the Oregon hazel industry has seen around 400 hectares planted annually over the last 3 years. That is about the size of our total industry. Chile is still planting large areas and has gained access to “Tonda Pacifica”, the latest release from the Oregon breeding programme. Tonda Pacifica “combines the desirable kernel quality of Tonda Gentile delle Langhe with higher yield, thinner shells, lower susceptibility to bud mites and fewer defects.” This variety is susceptible to EFB so will not be grown in Oregon but is being protected by patents and is clearly targeted at the Chilean industry to provide additional revenue streams for the Oregon State University breeding programme.

There has been interest in New Zealand nuts from several Chinese interests this year. This is a trend worldwide. China is now the largest or second largest consumer of all the major nut crops. At the Australian Nut Industry Council conference in March of this year, there was a very interesting presentation by Cheng Hung Kay of CHK Trading Co. Ltd of Hong Kong. Titled “Why do the Chinese eat so many nuts?”, this presentation contains a very interesting set of graphs of Chinese nut imports since 2000 that show quite clearly the significant rise in Chinese imports of all nut species since 2007. For hazels, there is an average importation of about 15,000 metric tons for the period 2000 to 2009. Last year this soared to more than 33,000 metric tons.

Hazelnut imports into China, 2000-2010

If we consider that India, with a large vegetarian population, is also increasing nut imports then surely there is an opportunity for future growth of our industry. However, we need to be able to grow hazels in a cost effective manner and be able to supply the correct varieties for these markets. Our research work is an important start to achieving these aims.

I would like to thank the committee for their dedication over the past year. The e-meetings are being refined and appear to be working well. Our finances are in a healthy state. The website has just had a “members only” section added (thanks Willy) and we hope to be able to add a steady flow of new information to that section. Sarah, our very capable newsletter editor, wishes to pass that job on. Thanks for your hard work and also your advice and feedback during committee meetings and general discussions.

Looking forward, we have a group of innovative growers experimenting with improving harvesting methods, building equipment, and marketing their crops. There are challenges – how do we profitably market the increased crop, how do we as an organization ensure that information flows through all our members and to all growing regions when travel costs continue to increase? As always, your committee would welcome your comments and ideas.

Murray Redpath, June 3rd, 2011