Today, the consumption of nuts has become an essential part of healthy consumption. Nuts have been recommended primarily for coronary heart diseases, problems in blood sugar and cholesterol, diabetes, metabolic problems, and their antioxidant, vitamin and mineral contents. More and more governments recommend them to be consumed on a daily basis.
Turkey, located as a bridge between Europe and Asia, has the advantage of producing various types of nuts as a result of various climate types. With the increase in domestic and international demand, production of nut is increasing from year to year.
Hazelnut is mainly consumed as a major raw material in chocolate, confectionery and baking industries and as an ingredient in edible nut mixes.
Turkey is internationally renowned for its high quality hazelnuts. With respect to production and export of hazelnut, Turkey is the most important country in the world. Hazelnuts are known as a rich source of energy, protein, essential fatty acids, vitamins and minerals, and they do not contain cholesterol. Because of these features, hazelnuts are highly recommended by scientists for everyone. In short, it would be fair to say that hazelnuts are a vital nutrient and supplement in a balanced daily diet.
Turkey is the most important country of origin for hazelnuts in the world. Very few countries in the world have a climate as favorable for hazelnut production as that of Turkey.
Historic documents reveal that hazelnuts have been grown along the Black Sea coast in northern Turkey since 300 BC. Hazelnut farming has been the chief form of livelihood in the region for centuries – as it still is. It is estimated that more than 4 million inhabitants of Turkey depend directly upon the production, marketing or processing of this product.
In Turkey, hazelnuts are cultivated in an area of around 350 000 ha. The production area is spread densely all along the Black Sea coast. Hazelnut orchards extend up to 30 Km (18 Miles) in land. The average annual hazelnut production during the past five years in Turkey has been approximately 598 thousand tons in-shell. With its outstanding position, Turkey leads the field among hazelnut producing countries. Turkey realizes almost 70- 75% of the world’s hazelnut crop.
Turkish Hazelnut Production (In-Shell)
Turkish hazelnuts are classified as Giresun or Levant quality and they are divided into two groups as round and pointed according to their shape and aromatic properties.
Hazelnuts have been exported from Turkey to other countries for the last six centuries. In the 1950’s the hazelnut was the “leader” in Turkey’s foreign currency earnings followed by cotton, sultanas and figs. Today, revenues from hazelnut exports are still at significant level.
Turkey is the largest exporter of hazelnuts, supplying about 80% of the world’s hazelnut exports. Being the largest producer and exporter, Turkey naturally plays an important role in determining world hazelnut prices.
Until recently, Turkish hazelnuts were exported only as natural kernels. During the past 20 to 25 years hazelnut processing plants have been built and various forms of processed hazelnuts have begun to be exported. As a result, the market share of processed kernels has been growing steadily and is now about 41% of total hazelnut exports. New investments have also been carried out by Turkish exporters, some of which are joint ventures.
Today, unshelled (natural) hazelnuts and processed kernels constitute 99% of total Turkish hazelnut exports.
Turkish Hazelnut Exports (Including Processed Kernels)
Turkey, who exported mainly shelled and kernel forms to 32 countries before 1980, now exports hazelnuts and various processed forms of hazelnuts to over 130 countries. The majority of exports, above 74% of total exports, are shipped to the countries of the European Union. Germany is the leading importer of processed and unprocessed Turkish hazelnuts with a share of 21,3% of total exports, and followed by Italy (18,1%), France (12,3%), Poland (4,3%), Canada (4,2%), Austria (3,8%), Switzerland (3,5%), Belgium (3,4%), the Netherlands (2,8%) and Ukraine (2,6%). Far East, Latin American and Scandinavian Countries have emerged as potential markets for Turkish hazelnut in recent years.
Originating from the genus Pistacia, the species Pistacia vera is native to the Near East, Mediterranean and Western Asia. The green seed, which is the pistachio nut, is in a crusty shell that is being cracked during consumption. Pistachio kernels are very popular as a snack, but also are used as an ingredient in meat products like salami or sausages, or in the confectionary industry as a part of chocolate, cakes, Turkish Delight, baklava, ice cream and other traditional Turkish sweets.
Being one of the important producers of pistachio, growers continue to invest in pistachio tree plantations to satisfy the international and domestic demand.
Pistachio cultivation on a professional basis started with the Ceylanpinar State Farm, which was established in 1948 with 114 da of land. Today, this farm has become an important area in pistachio research in Turkey, and the total area dedicated to this purpose has reached 10,7 million ha.
The ideal growing conditions for pistachio trees are hot, dry summers and moderately cool, short winters. These climatic conditions are found particularly in the Southeastern part of Turkey; nevertheless, pistachios are grown in 56 provinces of Turkey from the Mediterranean, Aegean and even the Central Anatolian regions. But in the provinces of Gaziantep, Kahramanmaras, Adiyaman, Sanliurfa, Mardin, Diyarbakir and Siirt, the production of pistachios is relatively higher. Generally, no irrigation is done in the growing process of pistachios.
Production of Pistachios in Turkey
As it can be seen from the production statistics, pistachio trees are alternate-bearing trees, thus the production amount can vary greatly. However, as a result of high demand from both the domestic and international markets, it is expected that the average production will increase in the coming years.
Turkey is the 10th exporter of pistachios in the world with its 23 million USD of exports in 2011 and 29 million USD in 2012 (packaged excl.). As the pistachios from Iran and the USA are much more cost effective, these countries are the top two exporters in the world. According to the Trademap data, Iran’s export in 2011 is 701 million USD whereas USA has an export value of 674 million USD. However, depending on the production output, Turkish pistachios have always been in demand in international markets as a result of their distinctive taste and aroma which is more intense with respect to others. As it is seen in the table below, the biggest market for Turkish pistachios is Italy with a share of 18%. Germany, Israel and USA are the other important markets.
Walnuts are produced in many regions of Turkey. Most of the production is consumed domestically, since walnuts are regarded as healthy because of their high omega-3 fatty acid content.
The proximity to the Middle Eastern countries has made Turkey an important supplier for this product. The second important country group is the EU countries.
Being the third biggest chestnut producer in the world, Turkey is a leading producer of the Castanea sativa. The main production areas are the Aegean and Black Sea regions. Aydin is the most important province in chestnut production. The other important provinces are Izmir, Kastamonu, Sinop and Bartin. In 2011 the chestnut production reached 60 thousand tones in Turkey as seen in the table below.
Being a popular ingredient for the confectionary industry, chestnuts are preferred in cakes and other sweets like chestnut purees, marmalade and glazes. Therefore, the export figures of raw chestnuts seem relatively low since they are exported in processed forms.
Peanuts are not originating from trees, but from legumes like lentils and other beans. It is favored among consumers for their high fatty acids and vitamins as well as resveratrol – ma valuable antioxidant.
The majority of peanuts in Turkey are produced in the Cukurova Region, in which Adana and Osmaniye provinces are the main production areas. The most popular varieties are the domestic Com and NC-7 types.
Exports of peanuts in Turkey are developing and mainly focusing on neighboring regions.
Originating from the Latin “Pinus pinea”, pine nuts are generally grown naturally in the Mediterranean region. It has been a popular ingredient in various foods especially in the Roman Empire and also in many Middle Eastern civilizations. It was the Roman Empire who introduced this special nut to European consumers from where it spread to the other parts of the world, especially America.
The cultivation of pine nuts from its trees may take 18-20 years. After cultivation of the cones, they are left to dry and the nuts are separated mechanically. Afterwards, the outer shell of the pine nut is removed. Pine nuts are popular for their nutritional properties, containing a high amount of proteins and minerals. Also, its taste has unique contributions to various dishes as well in confectionary products.
As a Mediterranean Country, Turkey enjoys the privilege of being an important produce and exporter of pine nuts. The majority of the exports are headed to European countrie like Italy, Germany, Switzerland and Spain.
Almonds in Turkey are generally produced in provinces having Aegean or Mediterranea climates. In this regard, the main almond growing provinces in Turkey are Mugla and Mersin where about one quarter of the Turkish almond production is realized. Especially the Datca district of Mugla, and the Bozyazi and Anamur districts of Mersin have been specialized in almond production. Other important production regions in Turkey are Antalya, Isparta, Sanliurfa, Denizli and Elazig.
Exports of almonds in Turkey are developing from year to year reaching 67 million USD in 2012; they are generally exported in bulk form but also in packaged form as well. Export partners are generally Middle Eastern and EU countries. Quality is one issue that Turkish exporters give priority to. As a result of integration with the EU, Turkish Food laws are being harmonized with the relevant EU Directives, ensuring that all consumers have access to safe products. In addition, Turkey is actively taking part in the FAO/WHO Codex Alimentarius Commission in the establishment of international standards for aflatoxin levels for Almonds, Hazelnuts, Pistachios and Dried Figs.
In addition, many Turkish firms are applying quality systems like HACCP, BRC, IFS or ISO 9000 standards and trying to satisfy further demands of their customers.