Nut production has very good prospects in terms of exports, and the fact that the majority of domestic demand is covered by imports, can make growing crops such as hazelnuts, a profitable alternative activity and a source of additional family income.
Although nuts occupy an important place in the Greek diet, 72% of domestic demand is covered by imports from European Union countries like Italy and Spain, but from countries outside it as well, such as Turkey and China.
There is a particular deficit in Greece regarding the production of hazelnuts. Consumption of hazelnuts in the country depends on the total consumption of nuts, says agronomist Kasandros Gatsios. This consumption amounts to 65,000 tons annually. Of these, the first place belongs to pistachios - 30%, followed by almonds and hazelnuts with 20% each.
The biggest advantage in growing nuts, including hazelnuts, compared to fresh products like fruit and vegetables, is their resistance and capacity for long term storage, says agronomist and former Euro deputy Yiannis Glavakis. Unlike fruit and vegetables, most of which have to be offered for sale immediately, nuts can be stored for long periods of time, facilitating manufacturers in terms of time and ways of selling them.
In Europe, the production of peeled hazelnuts is about 120,000 tons annually.
Italy is the major producer of hazelnuts in the European Union, since it produces 78.5 per cent of the output, followed by Spain with 14.5%, France and Greece with 2.7% of the total production.
For the period 2000-2005, the Greek production of hazelnuts ranged from 3.4 to 2.4 thousand tons, with significant annual differences and a notable decline. Reduced amount of production is a result, by the way, of the reduction of arable land in the same period. Average yield of nuts from one acre of arable land during these 5 years amounted to about 250 kilograms.
Growing hazels has been known in Greece since ancient times. Today the country is producing hazelnuts mainly in Continental Greece, the island of Evia, the Peloponnese, the northern areas of Epirus, Thessaly and Macedonia, as the latter boasts the largest areas.
Income of up to 700 per decare
The average producer price for one kilogram of hazelnuts is 2 euro
In the last years, the average producer price per kilogram of hazelnuts has ranged from 1.8 to 2 euros. Therefore, hazelnuts could bring a net income of 700 euros per decare. According to agronomist Kasandros Gatsios, hazel adapts better in areas with cold and humid winters, without much frost, though. It can withstand temperatures of up to -24°C, but in the blooming period it can suffer even at temperatures of -9°C. Temperatures in summer should not exceed 37°C. The level of precipitation can reach 600-800 mm. It grows mainly in areas with an altitude of 600-1000 metres.
Soil should be deep and fertile with good drainage. Hazel doesn’t grow well in heavy clay soils. Also the soil has to be acidic to neutral, i.e. with pΗ 5.5 - 7.0.
Fertilization: Fertilization is usually performed with 10-12 units of nitrogen, 5-6 units of phosphorus and 8-9 units of potassium per acre.
Hazelnuts ripen in late August - early September, depending on variety. Fruits are ripe when they release easily from the plant and are brown in colour.
Hazelnuts are picked by hand or by shaking down the branches and then collecting the fruit from the ground. There are modern machines with which the fruit is "sucked" directly from the branches.
After being harvested, hazelnuts are peeled and brought to the dryer in order to be dried at a temperature of 32-38°C. Moisture content of dried nuts should be 7-8%. Bleaching of nuts with sulphur dioxide to make them shine follows after that.
Hazelnuts are rich in calcium, vitamins and monounsaturated fats. They improve heart function and reduce levels of bad cholesterol. They are rich in anti-cancer agents, folic acid, potassium, magnesium, phosphorus and copper. They contain antioxidants, which play an important role in preventing premature aging. Nuts are rich in manganese, a substance involved in the processes of growth and reproduction in the body, such as nerve growth, growth and good condition of the bones, composition of hormones.
Who can you contact
Kasandros Gatsios, agronomist-company consultant, SymAgro Company.
Science and Technology Park of Epirus. Tel. 6944846475 - 26510 07653