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NASS predicts larger hazelnut crop this year

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Capital Press

The 2013 Oregon hazelnut harvest is forecast at 40,000 tons -- an 8.1 percent increase over last year, according to the USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service.

"It's a good number. It will be a good return for the growers," Doug Olson, Hazelnut Growers Bargaining Association president, said.

NASS collected 81,264 nuts from trees in 10 Willamette Valley counties during a two-week period in August, said Dave Losh, a NASS statistician. According to the press release, 88.4 percent of those were considered "good nuts."

The average dry weight per good nut was 3.25 grams, up from 3.19 grams in 2011, NASS reported. Large nuts measuring 19.4 to 22.2 millimeters made up 39 percent of the survey; 41 percent of the survey consisted of jumbo nuts measuring more than 22.2 millimeters.

Mike Klein, associate director of the Hazelnut Industry Office, said growers should keep in mind that initial numbers don't always transfer to the final dried product -- survey samples are not fully mature and may contain water, which can influence nut sizes.

"The more important thing is that the estimated yield will be higher than the last two years, if realized. That's what the industry needs," Klein said. "We had more demand last year than supply."

Oregon's hazelnut harvest is expected to begin in mid- to late September, about 10 to 14 days early, Tim Aman, Nut Growers Society immediate past president, said.

The early harvest could allow exports to begin sooner -- possibly in the last week of September -- making Oregon nuts available for holiday markets around the world.

"Having an earlier crop allows us to market into Europe more than we have in the last 10 years," Troy Johnson, MWT Foods USA regional president, said.

Hazelnuts are expected to be in higher demand this year, based on a forecast released at the International Nut Conference in June predicting a smaller than anticipated U.S. almond crop and a smaller hazelnut crop in Turkey, the world's largest hazelnut producer.

"Hazelnut prices should be above last year," Olson said. "The base price last year began at 87 cents."

Similar to the NASS survey, a subjective grower survey last year forecast 40,000 tons, although final yields fell about 3,000 tons short of that estimate.

"I don't believe we'll see a shorter crop this year," Johnson said. "Having an objective survey done by an outside group gives us a lot more accuracy and scientific knowledge to compare."

The sampled nuts were taken from trees to reflect varieties recorded during a 2012 NASS variety survey in the state.

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