Technology and hazelnuts, a love affair?

Technology and hazelnuts, a love affair?

We, as Turkish people, are very proud of our hazelnuts. We are the biggest producers and we believe we produce the best quality. At least that’s what I thought up until yesterday.

First, let’s examine what we earn from hazelnuts. According to state-run Anadolu Agency, last year Turkey earned revenues worth nearly $2 billion from nut exports, quoting Edip Sevinç, the head of the Black Sea Hazelnut and Products Exporters’ Association, as saying. Sevinç said last year Turkish exporters earned $1.98 billion from 227,556 tons of hazelnut exports, mainly to Italy, France and Germany, which have robust food industries to process the nuts.

As the value of the Turkish Lira recently dropped sharply against the U.S. dollar, making Turkish goods much cheaper for customers abroad, Turkey’s revenues from hazelnut exports fell since the previous year, though the export volume did not show a substantial change. Sevinç said the Turkish hazelnut industry earned around $2.83 billion from hazelnut exports in 2015 from 240,137 tons shipped.

One of the biggest buyers of Turkish hazelnuts is Ferrero. The exchange that I made with them changed my outlook on Turkish agriculture, especially nuts production. I learned that we might be the biggest producer but we are far from being the most efficient. 

Ferrero Hazelnut chief Stefano Gagliasso underscored that Turkey is by far the largest hazelnut producer in the world. “However, based on the production per decare statistics, Turkey’s productivity is comparatively low. We observed that the decrease in hazelnut exports in the last two years is due to increasing competition of other producing countries,” he added.  

Gagliasso emphasized that good agricultural practices and mechanization directly improve the production of farmers and reward tangible results within three years. “These good practices led to the increase of productivity and yield of our farmers by shifting the harvest and labor costs to scientific techniques and mechanization. Increase in quality ensures sustainability for the process. Additionally, all machinery used for modern agricultural practices are produced in Turkey, which means the creation of business potential of the machinery sector with 100 percent domestic capital,” he added.  

Ferrero Hazelnut, the biggest user of Turkish hazelnut, increases the quality and productivity of hazelnut production with Ferrero Farming Values practices that have been promoted for five years. In the hazelnut orchards that used those practices this year, we observed that the hazelnut quality improved considerably while the yield increased up to 50 percent. Ferrero Farming Values is a long-term project that utilizes 100 percent domestic resources in Turkey. The main goal is to contribute to increase the competitiveness of Turkey in the global hazelnut market by improving the quality of hazelnuts and the productivity of the yield. 

Within the scope of the initiative, the Ferrero team organized 40,000 visits to orchards and reached 16,900 farmers since the beginning of 2017. The team organized events at almost 100 orchards and introduced modern agricultural practices, like traditional fertilization, pruning, disinfestation, harvest and drying processes, to 8,000 farmers. Ferrero Farming Values team consists of 55 agricultural engineers and 20 social experts. Ferrero will hire 10 additional agricultural engineers and two more social experts to the team. 

I am a huge fan of technology transfer and getting know-how from great companies. Let’s learn all we can from this experience and apply it throughout the country. If we don’t, we might lose our edge in nut production. Furthermore, we might lose everything due to the changing climate. Let’s learn and apply these values because as we develop our farming, all brands that use Turkish hazelnuts, including Ferrero and local brands like Ülker and Eti, will flourish and contribute greater export income to us.