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Turkey Expects Lower Pistachio & Hazelnut Crop This Year

The “off-year” for production will push Turkey’s pistachio production lower in Marketing Year (MY) 2023/24. The production of almonds and walnuts is forecast slightly higher but hazelnut production is expected to go down. Even though domestic tree nuts production continues to grow, Turkey is projected to import sizeable volumes of almonds and walnuts in MY 2023/24 to meet steady consumer demand. Imports of U.S. tree nuts continue to be disadvantaged by a 10 percent retaliatory duty, which Turkey imposed after the United States levied Section 232 tariffs on Turkish steel and aluminum. However, despite this additional tax and growing competition, the United States is still the one of the top suppliers of walnuts and almonds to Turkey.

Pistachio Production

Turkey’s pistachio production in Marketing Year (MY) 2023/24 is forecast at 160,000 metric tons (MT). Production volumes will decrease compared to the previous MY since MY 2023/24 is considered an “off-year” in the production cycle for pistachios. Still, production will not be as low as some of the earlier off-years. Production will be buoyed by an increase in the number of bearing trees. According to the Turkish Statistical Institute (TurkStat), there were an estimated 58 million bearing pistachio trees at the beginning of the current marketing year, up nearly 5 percent from last year. There are also about 25 million non-bearing trees, which is about 7 percent higher than a year ago.

A few large earthquakes in February 2023 struck the two largest pistachio producing provinces, Sanliurfa and Gaziantep. The Government of Turkiye (GoT) and market resources indicate that the earthquake had minimal effect on pistachio production in the area, though.

MY 2023/24 pistachio production, which is mostly rain-fed, will also benefit from improved rainfall conditions during the 2023 spring. However, there were two large floods in March 2023 in Sanliurfa which adversely affected some pistachio trees. Sanliurfa also saw some frost over a few nights in April and May 2023. Farmers tried to protect their orchards by making big bonfires. According to market sources, this method protects some of the fruits from freezing, though not all of them. Since the effects of these adverse events is limited in area, the effect on total production is minimal.

Pistachio growers continue to replace their older trees, some of which are more than 50 years old, with younger trees in hopes of improving yields and increasing profit margins. Younger trees are less affected by the periodicity. Market sources also indicate that planting of the Siirt variety, known to be less periodical, is also increasing, though the Antep variety is still dominant in Turkey.

With improved farmer training over the last decade, growers now appreciate and understand the importance of planting male trees in their orchards. At the same time, market sources report that in recent years some farmers, who were looking for higher profit margins, stopped planting lentils, barley, and even wheat to start growing pistachio trees. The new trees and orchards being planted will help lift Turkey’s overall yields and production levels in the coming years.

Pistachio yields and production levels can vary dramatically between on- and off-years. The average pistachio yield is around 4 kilograms (kg) per tree in on-years and around 2 kg per tree during off-years. However, periodicity effects on yield have decreased in recent years due to the reasons explained above.

Pistachio production is widespread throughout Turkey, with 56 of 81 provinces growing pistachios, according to the Gaziantep Commodity Exchange (GCE). However, the two southeastern provinces of Gaziantep and Sanliurfa account for 80 percent of total production. The southeastern provinces of Adiyaman, Siirt, Kilis, Kahramanmaras, Mardin, and Diyarbakir account for another 15 percent of total production. The remaining five percent is thinly spread across the Aegean, Mediterranean, and Marmara regions, where production has slowly increased over the last decade.

There are two main types of pistachios grown in Turkey, the Gaziantep (Antep) variety and the Siirt variety. Both are unique to Turkey and differ in size and shape compared to the pistachios grown in Iran and the USA. The Antep variety accounts for 85 percent of pistachios grown in Turkey. The Siirt variety makes up the remaining 15 percent of production; the Siirt variety is considered a higher- yielding variety than the Gaziantep variety.

The quality standards for Turkish pistachios are directly related to the size of the nut. 90 nuts or fewer per 100 grams is considered first quality; 90-100 nuts are second quality; 100-120 nuts are third quality; and more than 120 nuts are fourth quality. Turkey’s production of high-quality pistachios is predicted to increase in the future with the increasing number of new trees.

In recent years, to mitigate the natural “off year/on year” production cycle, pistachio growers have started using good agricultural practices, especially in parts of southeastern Turkey. With support from local universities and other institutions, farmers are gradually realizing that higher yields can be achieved with “good” soil conditions, better tree care, and irrigation. While the number of irrigated orchards has grown in the last few years due to abnormal drought conditions, only a fraction of total production is irrigated.

Since 2011, the Turkish Foundation for Combating Soil Erosion, Forestation, and Protection of Natural Habitats (TEMA), with contributions from private companies, has undertaken a project to increase the pistachio yields in the Gaziantep and Sanliurfa provinces. The project, which is called “May you have abundant pistachios,” trains farmers how to properly care for their trees. The training focuses on improving pruning and trimming techniques, as well as better fertilizer and pesticide application practices. Farmers who have been trained under this program and applied these best practices have seen their yields triple. Meanwhile, universities in the major pistachio growing regions in Turkey have developed better production methods and plant protection measures to help farmers improve yields.

Almond Production

Almond production for MY 2023/24 is forecast to increase year-over-year to 24,000 MT. This projected increase is attributed to an increase in the number of bearing trees.

The devastating earthquakes of February 2023 in the southeast region of Turkey affected Adiyaman and 10 other provinces. Adiyaman province is the largest almond growing region in Turkey, Kahta being the leading area of production. Market sources confirm the GoT’s assessment that almond production was not affected by the earthquake. Although there was a problem related to human resources in the immediate aftermath of the quakes due to evacuations, by the harvest these challenges were reduced, if not totally solved.

In March 2023 there were heavy rains and floods also affecting Adiyaman. Sources indicate that there was some frost and hail in April and May which hindered yields this year in the localities where those weather patterns occurred.

In line with past practice, the Chambers of Agriculture in Adiyaman and Kahta continue to press Turkey’s Agricultural Credit Cooperative Union (ACCU) to fix a higher purchase price for almonds and to set it earlier in the season. As of mid-September, though, ACCU has not yet set a purchasing price. Private traders use the ACCU purchase price as a benchmark in setting contract prices. The president of the Kahta Almond Producers Union indicated that a price needs to be announced and asked GoT to raise the customs tariffs, as he claims they have been gradually lowered in recent years. In August, the president of the Kahta Chamber of Agriculture declared that the purchase prices to be declared by ACCU should be a minimum of 50 – 55 TL/kg for inshell almonds, although that number was about 30 TL/kg in the previous harvest.

Almond growers continue to plant new trees and break ground on new orchards in response to strong domestic demand for almonds and with support from the GoT’s various support programs. The GoT encourages producers to establish new orchards by allocating free land for 49-years, providing interest- free financing, and delivering general support payments to farmers. In 2020, the Turkish Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MinAF) published an investor guide on its website to assist investors looking to plant new almond orchards. (Note: the guide was taken down from MinAF’s website a year after publication.) The guide explained the technical and financial aspects of starting a 100-hectare orchard. The guide noted that a return on investment was to be expected after seven years.

As a result of the aforementioned government support programs, and the attractive nature of the investment, the private sector has concentrated on planting new almond orchards in Izmir, Manisa, Mugla, Denizli, Sanliurfa, Canakkale, Adiyaman and Karaman provinces. The investments in new orchards, once fully realized, will increase almond production in the medium term.

The district of Kahta within the Adiyaman province has been the leading producer of almonds in Turkey since 2016, according to the Kahta Union of Almond Producers. The group’s plan is to increase almond orchard acreage to 100,000 ha by 2023/24 in order to produce enough almonds to meet domestic demand. According to the Kahta Chamber of Agriculture, the district will reach its acreage goal as of MY 2022/23, though many of the newly established orchards still have large numbers of non-bearing trees. As for the Union’s production target, it seems unreachable for the time being.

In earlier decades, MinAF has instituted special afforestation projects aimed at increasing the number of planted almond trees. While the number of planted trees has increased as a result of these projects, almond production has not significantly increased, since the trees were planted in marginal areas and were not carefully tended.

Walnut Production

For MY 2022/23, walnut production is forecast at 69,000 MT, slightly up from the previous year. Although the number of bearing trees increased, there have been droughts throughout the country from fall 2022 to spring 2023, and again in summer 2023. Spring 2023 saw excess rainfall, causing floods in several areas. There was also frost and hail damage seen in several areas of the country. Under the circumstances, production has remained stable.

Walnut trees grow in almost every province of the country, but commercial walnut orchards are still a relatively new phenomenon in Turkey. The GoT has instituted various programs to increase commercial production, allocating free land for 49-years, providing interest-free financing, and delivering general support payments to farmers. This support has spurred farmers and others in the private sector over the last couple of decades to open new orchards throughout the country, including the Aegean, Marmara, southeastern Anatolia, and Mediterranean regions. However, even with these new orchards, the domestic production of walnuts is still inadequate to meet the growing demand of Turkish consumers.

Over the last 20 years, MinAF has undertaken special afforestation projects, in an attempt to boost commercial walnut production. However, these initiatives did not yield the expected results since many of the trees were planted in marginal soils or unsuitable locations. Irrigation to these afforested lands is generally unavailable or too costly. In contrast, the newer commercial orchards are more successful since they use up-to-date techniques, and many have access to irrigation.

Up until the last 10-15 years, there was not a standard walnut variety being grown in Turkey. However, as growers have come to appreciate that certain propagation techniques result in higher yields, the use of standard varieties has now become more widespread. Chandler is the most popular walnut tree variety. However, there is still a need for introducing higher-yielding varieties that are suitable for local growing conditions. Turkey’s leading walnut research establishment, the Yalova Horticulture Research Institute, is developing new varieties for commercial production in different parts of the country.

The Turkish Walnut Producers Association (TWPA) was established in 2021 and held its first general assembly that summer. The association has about 30 members, who are all large, commercial growers by Turkish standards. As of 2022, association members collectively own 35,000-40,000 da of orchard land that is covered with 1 million trees. The Association’s members employ modern agriculture techniques on their mechanized commercial operations. The association aims to produce 20,000 MT, which is equivalent to about one-third of Turkey’s current production volumes, within the next 2-3 years. The association held Turkey’s first “International Walnut Conference” in September 2022, though as of August 2023 there are no signs that they will have a second one.

As of June 2023, TWPA announced that they will establish a brand in order to better market domestic walnuts. TWPA has stated that it is very hard for small domestic producers to get onto shelves of supermarket chains, because organized retail chains demand a steady supply of large amounts of walnuts, and are therefore bound to sell imported walnuts which can be steadily supplied. In order to get market access to small domestic producers, TWPA is establishing a brand under their Turkish acronym, CÜD. This brand will pack walnuts inshell in net bags of 1 kg to be sold in supermarkets with the 2023 harvest season. As of mid-September, though, they are not in stores. TWPA claims domestic production is tastier than any imported walnuts and is presented to the consumers at a better quality since they are not fumigated.  Moreover TWPA is lobbying the GoT to increase customs tariffs to 43 percent, as they were before 2018.

Hazelnut Production

Note: USDA does not maintain a Production, Supply and Distribution for hazelnuts.

Turkey is the largest producer and exporter of hazelnuts in the world, accounting for about 70 percent of world production and around 75 percent of world exports. Production in MY 2023/24 is forecast lower year-over-year at 600,000 MT. By comparison, TurkStat is predicting production will reach 730,000 MT and the Turkish Union of Chambers of Agriculture predicted 718,000 during this period before the harvest started. Market sources believe this number is too high, though. During the harvest, it is understood that yields were not as high as expected.

Most years, the Turkish Grain Board (TMO) purchases and stores hazelnuts on behalf of the Turkish government. In the beginning of August this year, the President of Turkiye announced the official purchase price that TMO will pay for hazelnuts. The purchase price for Giresun quality hazelnuts is 84 TL/kg, almost double last year’s. The purchase price for Levant quality hazelnuts is 82.50 TL/kg, nearly a 60 percent increase compared to a year ago. Growers book appointments online to sell their hazelnuts to TMO. TMO pays the grower 21-days after receiving the hazelnuts in its warehouse. Since the actual crop was much less than predicted by GoT, the market price of hazelnuts surpassed these official prices reaching about 90 TL/kg quickly after harvest started, so not many were willing to sell their crop to TMO this year. TMO was advised to increase purchase prices if they wanted to stock hazelnuts on behalf of the GoT. In addition to TMO, the Union of Hazelnut Agriculture Sales Cooperatives (FISKOBIRLIK) sometimes purchases and stores hazelnuts to help keep domestic prices stable. As of September 15th, FISKOBIRLIK is purchasing the lowest quality Giresun variety hazelnut for 98 TL/kg.

The largest single buyer of Turkish hazelnuts is Italy’s Ferraro Hazelnut Company, the owner of the Nutella brand. Ferraro is the biggest hazelnut trader in Turkey, buying about one-third of Turkey’s annual hazelnut export volumes. Ferraro’s announced purchase price is slightly lower than the TMO rate at 80 TL/kg as of September. Approximately half of Turkey’s hazelnut exports are handled by international companies, such as Ferraro.

Although hazelnuts are grown in more than 48 provinces around Turkey, production is primarily concentrated along Turkey’s Black Sea coast. Hazelnut orchards are typically located within 30 km of the coast. In the western Black Sea region, the growing region starts at Zonguldak (east of Istanbul on the Black Sea coast) and extends east along the entire Black Sea and the mountains until close to the Georgian border. There are approximately 500,000 producers and 4 million people directly or indirectly employed by hazelnut production in Turkiye on an area of around 725,000 hectares.

Hazelnuts require relatively little effort to cultivate and input requirements are low. However, with better maintenance, the yield efficiency of Turkish hazelnut orchards could easily be improved. Due to socio-economic reasons, Turkish hazelnut orchards are not well maintained, and the trees are aged with some orchards dating back 70 years. Turkish hazelnuts usually mature between early and late August, depending on the altitude of the orchard and weather conditions. Hazelnuts are hand-picked from the trees and dried in the sun. Harvesting takes place during several weeks in August and September.

Read the full USDA-FAS report HERE

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