ANKARA: Turkey, ranking the world’s third largest producer of hazelnuts after China and the U.S., invests in Azerbaijan in order not to lose leadership in the hazelnut market. Turkish businessmen began buying or renting hazelnut gardens in Azerbaijan and Georgia in large quantities, according to the Turkish media. “Currently, hazelnuts are grown on an area of 32,000 hectares in Georgia, and in 42,000 hectares Azerbaijan,” said a company official represented in the sector. “The potential of the two countries is measured by hundreds of thousands of hectares. If the necessary measures are not taken, the primacy in the hazelnut market can move to countries that we do not consider to be competitors.”
Today large international companies specializing in the production of chocolate invest large investments in the expansion of hazelnut areas in Georgia, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Italy, Spain, Chile and Argentina in order to take Turkey’s lead. Italy, Spain, Azerbaijan, Georgia, the U.S. and other countries in total, produce about 30 percent of the total hazelnut production manufactured in Turkey. This means approximately 250,000-300,000 tons. About 70 percent of world production and export of hazelnut falls on Turkey. Last year, Turkey earned revenues of nearly $2 billion from exports of the nuts, mainly to Italy, France and Germany. Relying on its amazingly rich and variable nature, Azerbaijan plans to expand the exports of hazelnuts.
In Azerbaijan, the hazelnut production and the exports of persimmons fetch biggest revenue among agricultural produce, therefore, the country pays very serious attention to these two areas. Last year hazelnut orchards were established on an area of 13,000 hectares of a total 30,000 hectares of hazelnut orchards. The future goal of the country is to establish hazelnut orchards on a further 40,000 hectares, expanding the geography of hazelnut production, which currently involves 13 regions of the country. Hazelnuts are produced in Baku, Absheron, Ganja-Gazakh, Sheki-Zagatala, Upper Karabakh, Lankaran, and other regions of the country. Meanwhile, one of the regions of Azerbaijan — Gabala is increasing export of hazelnuts to Europe. Cultivation of hazelnuts is significantly important for the region. Built in 2005, the plant in Gabala also processes hazelnuts from neighboring regions such as Oguz, Zagatala and Gakh.
The plant produces products from nuts, including peanut puree, chocolate cream, sweet and salty hazelnut as well as chocolate with hazelnuts. Azerbaijan entered top ten countries with the largest production of hazelnuts in 2012, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization. However, the country could not reach large revenues from the export of hazelnuts. Despite the fact that the main market for the national product is Russia, specialists claim that it is more profitable for the country to export to Europe, as hazelnuts are sold more expensive there.