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

AGM Weekend 2011

A series of field days were held around Nelson, in conjunction with the 2011 Annual General Meeting on 4 June.

By Jenny Darragh

HGA newsletter – August 2011

As part of the AGM and Field day at Queen’s Birthday Weekend, a damp Saturday morning found about 30 members at Irene & Phil Hickford’s orchard to a warm welcome and morning tea. The Hickfords have around 800 hazelnut trees 4-6 years old. These are mixed varieties of Whiteheart, Tonda Romano, Barcelona, Merveille de Bollwiller. As we admired the immaculate orchard, Phil explained that he keeps the suckers under control weekly with a $99 mini hedge trimmer and this suppressed the growth of the suckers.

Phil uses a Cifarelli backpack harvester that he has modified to make it easier to use and has it mounted on a trolley. He uses a nut cracker and a separator made by a local engineering company to process the nuts for the local farmers and church markets. To ensure maximum freshness and to prevent nuts oxidising, he vacuum packs the nuts and believes that presentation is very important. Phil recommends letting people sample nuts and has plenty of repeat sales through internet and phone. For more details visit his website at
We adjourned to Brightwater for a lunch that was great value both in content and amusement. The inventive Flat Whites were a lost photo opportunity! The AGM followed at the nearby Brightwater Community church hall.

On Sunday morning we visited Ross and Janet Wood’s orchard in Waimea West. The mainly Whiteheart trees are around 17 years old. The Woods were concerned about overcrowding and thought trees may need to be removed. Murray Redpath found they were healthy trees with at least 15 cm extension of new growth and were cropping well. He suggested Ross and Janet remove lower branches that were protruding into the rows, and also remove some inside branches to let more light in. In some cases a chainsaw would be needed. For the problem of harvesting, Murray suggested they use suspended nets. This is a big outlay to start with but makes the harvesting cleaner and easier, particularly on a small block such as this. Any nuts that are still unharvested are now likely to be of poor quality, and could be put through a chipper on low speed to be used as chicken or stock feed. Janet and Ross had a great variety of other nut trees including pecan, walnut and macadamia.

Later that morning we looked around Terry and Sandra Westbury’s orchard in Redwoods Valley. The property was originally an apple orchard. As the trees have been removed they have been replaced over ten years with hazelnut trees. While having a welcome morning tea, we had a chance to look at their Giffoni Nocchione harvester. The machine removes husks, twigs and blanks so the nuts come out clean and can be put straight into bags to be sorted later. They have washed the nuts in a bath in the past but are looking for an alternative. Murray discussed the importance of cleaning the nuts and this needs to be done twice. Once for a clean and once with a dilute bleach to disinfect as there is a risk of cross contamination from bird and rodent droppings and animal faeces (if stock has been in the orchard). As regulations become more enforced in the food industry this will soon become a necessity.

There was a discussion about drying the nuts – The faster the drying, the better the quality of the nuts. Flowering in the orchard was apparent and Murray said that because the autumn had been mild, data information should now be recorded to enable the success of research to find the most suitable pollinisers in various regions.

After a delicious lunch at Mapua we visited Toni Elliott and Smoky Fry’s orchard near Motueka. They have 1000 Whiteheart, Alexandra, Merveille de Bollwiller, Butler and Barcelona trees that are approximately 10 years old. Because of the climate in Nelson, the management of suckers involves constant spraying – every 1 ½ weeks. With the high rainfall and lack of opportunity to spray, the suckers can grow to enormous heights in a short time. Smoky and Toni remove these with a chainsaw and sell these as tomato stakes.

Suckers destined for use as tomato stakes

Toni keeps excellent records of her orchard so is able to say how much each tree yields and whether a tree is useful or needs to be replaced. They use a concrete mixer for a brief wash with great success as it will wash a sack of nuts at a time. The afternoon ended with afternoon tea and a chat. This was a very successful and enjoyable weekend and our thanks and congratulations for the efforts of Darrell and Karen Johnson and the Nelson members.

Low cost harvester

Bey Allison

HGA newsletter – August 2011

Anyone who has used one of the popular blow/vac machines will appreciate that they blow far better than they suck.

With this in mind perhaps it would be worth trying to blow our nuts onto a tray rather than try to suck them up through a tube.

The Stihl 600 is a backpack blower. It has a four-stroke motor and produces a tremendous controllable blast which is ideal for shifting nuts on rough ground or in long grass, and it has no problem working nuts in damp conditions. This seems the ideal basis for a low-cost harvester.

To keep the weight as low as possible the tray frame was made of aluminium angle and joined with pop rivets. The bottom and sides are 10 mm galvanised netting (Mitre 10). Two hinged wings guide the nuts onto the comb, increasing the effective length of the tray.

The nuts and leaves ride up the comb fingers while any earth or smaller pieces are blown through the teeth and remain on the ground. An occasional blast along the tray floor blows the leaves up the plywood sheet and over the back, leaving relatively clean, earth-free nuts.

When the lift arm in the front is raised the rear wheels retract, the tray rises from the ground, and the whole assembly is easily wheeled up the lane to the next three or four trees.

This is a one man operation, although we usually use a golf cart (or could equally well use a ride-on mower) with a pivoted arm with which the driver raises and lowers the tray. This latter speeds things up considerably.

The tray is emptied by simply rolling it on its back onto a plastic sheet (Warehouse). We empty the sheets into a trailer and run the nuts through a farm made cylindrical dresser and into onion bags.

This was an experimental prototype so we were surprised how quickly and effectively it coped with our one and a half ton harvest, and we plan only minor modifications for expected increased yields. Compared with the commercial suction harvester we used in the past it was very much faster (especially with heavier crops) and produced much cleaner results. Only basic tools are required to make the tray.

If anyone is interested I am happy to provide further details:
lyddington @

Bey Allison’s low-cost harvester, based on a Stihl 600 backpack blower plus custom-engineered portable collection tray

Chocolate Hazelnut Spread


  • 2 Tbsp caster sugar
  • 100g sweet cooking chocolate
  • 3Tbsp Hazelnut Oil


Dry roast the hazelnuts in the oven at 180’C for 15 minutes or until the flesh of the nuts are lightly golden. Remove the skins by rubbing in a teatowel or between the hands. While still hot, put the nuts into the food processor and finely chop.

Melt the chocolate in a sauce pan and add the hazelnut oil, taking care not to overheat the mixture. Add to the nut mixture and process until smooth.