BRANTFORD — The provincial and federal governments are pouring money into Ontario’s hazelnut industry.
Last March, Ferrero SpA, an Italian chocolate giant most famous for its Ferrero Rocher chocolates, announced that it wanted another 23,000 acres of hazelnuts planted in Ontario within seven years. It was an ambitious target, considering Ontario currently only grows between 300 and 400 acres of hazelnuts. There are perhaps as many as 100 growers in Ontario, though exact numbers are hard to tell, said Ontario Hazelnut Association Chair Linda Grimo. Nobody’s formally tracking the number of growers and grower’s acreages range from one or two acre plots to 30-acre farms, she said.
Last month, the federal government announced that $492,052 would be given to the Ontario Hazelnut Association, which was formed in 2013, to help develop the industry in Ontario. The money is earmarked for research including orchard management, new tree varieties and micropropogation, where plants are essentially cloned at a faster rate than it would take to grow them.
Ferrero itself has received $11 million from the province towards a $90-million Brantford plant expansion that will include a new cocoa bean processing facility, increased manufacturing capacity for the hazelnut spread Nutella, a new processes for making new Tic Tac products and installing a new wastewater treatment system.
The company buys as much as half of the world’s supply of hazelnuts. The world’s demand for hazelnuts is mostly met by Turkey, which grows about 75 per cent of the world’s supply. One third of Turkey’s production comes from one region around the town of Ordu.
There are barriers to entry for new growers. Planting and irrigation costs could be as much as $6,000 per acre. Harvesting equipment could cost $100,000 and trees don’t hit full production for 10 years.