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How Has the Oregon Hazelnut Industry Been Impacted by the Coronavirus?

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While most people know Oregon for its beautiful landscape and rich woodworking scene, few people know that the state is actually one of the top producers of hazelnuts in the whole country.

In fact, as many as 99% of the hazelnuts grown in the United States comes from Willamette Valley alone! But before you store your Oregon hazelnuts in your new cabinets, you might want to know about the state of hazelnuts right now.

It seems as though the coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, has affected nearly all aspects of life, from our jobs to our restaurants to our farms. Not surprisingly, hazelnuts are no exception. Not only have supply chains been brought to a grinding halt, but farmers are struggling to provide for domestic consumption.

Here are some of the primary ways that hazelnut production has been impacted by the recent coronavirus outbreak.

The state of hazelnut exports

While Americans consume plenty of hazelnuts, the vast majority of hazelnuts are meant to be shipped overseas. In fact, up to 80% of all hazelnuts grown in the United States are sent to other countries, making the export of hazelnuts an essential aspect of business for farmers.

Unfortunately, coronavirus has slowed overseas trade and, in some cases, it has stopped it altogether. As a result, hazelnut farmers are struggling to sell Oregon’s best-known crop, especially since the market for hazelnuts in the U.S. is fairly low.

After a long, cold winter, the success of these crops is often the deciding factor in a farm’s longevity. Along with paying their workers, farms rely on a good harvest to maintain their farm. Without a good harvesting — and selling — season, farmers are unable to fix up their repair their tools and fix up their barns. Around 88% of shoppers want a new roof to be durable, meaning that it won’t be a cheap fix for a large barn.

The United States has already started relaxing tariffs, on certain imports to help struggling businesses stay afloat. While this is great news for buyers in the United States, it still fails to help exporters meet their goals.

Along with countless trade avenues being shuttered for overseas exports, much of the marketing for farms has also been affected. Any trade shows and trading missions for small and large companies alike have been postponed if they’re going to be happening at all. This means that hazelnut farms have lost both current and potential future customers.

Domestic hazelnut plans

As a result of coronavirus slowing down hazelnut exports, the Hazelnut Growers of Oregon have decided to help farmers shift their focus inward.

The Hazelnut Growers of Oregon are a type of farmer collective that ships around 65% of its products domestically, compared to the average hazelnut farmer’s 20%. The domestic sales of hazelnuts are meager compared to our export market, but the Hazelnut Growers of Oregon have developed a new strategy to help hazelnut producers improve their domestic activities.

The cooperative of farmers developed a new brand of hazelnuts called Oregon Orchard. The brand is also paired with an online e-commerce service to deliver hazelnuts across the country.

Thanks to innovation from the leaders of the cooperative, the group hopes that online sales will help the industry continue to thrive on a domestic level. The site offers a range of hazelnut goods, from chocolate-covered hazelnuts to spicy options.

“Online commerce will soon — if [it’s] not already — be regarded as the new direct sales channel. Our brand is no exception,” explains Greg Thorsgard, the chief operating officer for the Hazelnut Growers of Oregon.

The cooperative has even opened a new processing facility in order to reduce byproducts and waste from hazelnut production.

“The goal is to widen the value-added sales channel for hazelnuts, which generates more net income for the cooperative’s farmers and improves the entire industry’s visibility,” Thorsgard said.

The hazelnut industry was already expected to rise in the coming years, but many fear coronavirus might have furloughed this dream to the backburner. Luckily, innovations like these can help mitigate surprise factors to maintain a steadier market for produce.

Looking to the future

The hazelnut industry is expected to survive the coronavirus, but individual farmers might want to engage in domestic selling options to make a profit this year. This means investing in domestic trucks and shipping options. 72% of car accidents cause property damage, so it’s essential that farmers rely on reputable trucking companies to represent their brand.

The choices made right now by smaller farms might completely turn the market on its head. In the meantime, supporting local businesses is the best way to keep the economy strong in the face of coronavirus.

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