By LACEY JARRELL
ST. PAUL, Ore. -- Nut Growers Society immediate past president Tim Aman had good news for hazelnut producers at the organization's summer tour last week.
"Almond crops are down, and hazelnuts are considered a substitute, which puts some upward pressure on the (hazelnut) market," he said.
Early almond forecasts for this year estimated 2 billion pounds of nuts, but that number has since been scaled back to about 1.85 million. The actual harvest could be as much as 10 percent off the original estimate, Aman said.
He said Turkey is still the "big dog" in hazelnut production, although harvests from the country are only expected to crest 716,000 tons -- 100,000 tons less than last year -- and growers are anticipating a two- to three-week late harvest due to a cold, wet spring.
"This could mean a better market and better price for the grower," said Doug Olson, Hazelnut Growers Bargaining Association president. "All tree nuts are in the same pool -- when one, like almonds, goes up in price, then hazelnuts or some other takes its place."
Oregon's hazelnut harvest is expected to begin 10 to 14 days earlier (in mid- to late-September) this year, Aman said.
Turkey is also expecting a smaller carryover, meaning Oregon growers are poised have a steady stream of demand this year, according to Aman.
"The pipeline of hazelnuts to the world is basically empty," he said.
Growers are optimistic, but not 100 percent confident in the projections.
"Bottom line, I never follow the crop size until the final check is in my hand," said Don Godard, owner of Maley Road Hazelnuts in Corvallis.
Gene Tinker, past NGS president, said he experienced higher than average prices last year, on top of record prices in 2011.
He believes a lack of carryover, a reduced Turkish crop, and a growing worldwide demand for hazelnuts will garner prices similar to those in 2012.
"I'm very happy with a good price, and today it looks like it's going to be a good price," Tinker said.
Oregon is the fifth largest hazelnut producer in the world, with more than 30,000 acres producing old variety nuts. Aman estimates another 15,000 acres have been planted with Eastern filbert blight-resistant trees in the last six years.
"We will be the third largest hazelnut producer in the world when the new trees start producing nuts," Aman said.
A 2012 Oregon hazelnut grower survey forecasted a 40,000-ton yield, but only 34,700 tons were harvested, according to the USDA. The crop was valued at $63.4 million.
Results of the USDA's annual objective hazelnut yield survey conducted by the Oregon Field Office of USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service will be released Aug. 27.
"Hopefully we are in the 42,000 tons area, with a good size and good quality -- that's what sells," Olson said.