Around 80% of hazelnuts in Georgia have already been harvested, although the harvest is still ongoing. The process was slowed down by rains in western Georgia earlier, but the weather was fine last week in the Samegrelo region, western Georgia, allowing growers to continue harvesting. At the same time, rainy weather is expected again in the coming days.
The situation is different in the Guria region, Western Georgia, where the weather is unstable after a heavy rain on September 3. Today growers are mainly selling low-quality hazelnuts that they cannot store and expect sales of high-quality hazelnuts to start later when prices are higher, processors said.
According to representatives of hazelnut processing companies, the moisture content of currently supplied hazelnuts is usually 10-20%. Kernels become dry and suitable for storage at a moisture content of about 6%. The rainy weather partly affected the quality of the hazelnuts, they said, because they remained in the orchards until the rain stopped. Hazelnuts should dry out after rain in the orchard before harvesting. Labor shortages were an additional obstacle to the harvest.
“The fact that growers are now selling wet and lower quality grade hazelnuts does not mean that our overall harvest is of poor quality. Usually, growers store high quality hazelnuts in order to sell them later at a better price. Although the rains did slow down the harvesting and drying of hazelnuts this year. Currently, hazelnut prices range from 3 to 7 GEL/kg ($0.96–2.25 per kg) depending on moisture content and quality. Our company will start exporting hazelnuts in September, when the process of drying and storing hazelnuts will be completed. We expect a stable season this year, but growers should dry hazelnuts correctly so as not to spoil the quality,” Mamuka Beriashvili, founder of the hazelnut processing company Nuts.ge, said in an interview with EastFruit.
Temur Gogia, founder of the Georgian Hazelnut Corporation, a hazelnut processing plant in Lanchkhuti, Guria, also hopes that growers will start selling good-quality hazelnuts later in the season. The moisture content of the core has increased from 16% two weeks ago to 20% now, due to the rains and high humidity in the region, he said. Gogia believes that marble bugs have also influenced the quality of hazelnuts this year. He considers it important to constantly fight this insect, despite the success achieved by Georgia over the past three years.
Another factor that adversely affects the season mentioned by Gogia is the small hazelnut sourcing businesses in the region.
“Small processors cannot check quality in the laboratory. The quality assessment and pricing are done in accordance with the rules they have created. As a result, growers lose the motivation to produce high-quality hazelnuts. The price we pay for hazelnuts depends on the results of laboratory tests. Many growers bring us their product, but we are interested in buying high-quality hazelnuts to meet the requirements of our European partners,” Gogia said.
A high harvest of hazelnuts is expected in Georgia this year. In August, the exports of a new harvest began, which amounted to 1,085 tons of kernels and 781 tons of inshell nuts thus far.
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