All for the love of Hazelnuts

featured-imageBy Dana Stephenson

Nestled in the hills above the city of Ottawa lies the house of the Italian Ambassador Gian Lorenzo Cornado. On October 3rd, the house was attended by a large number of distinguished guests for a roundtable discussion on Sustainable Hazelnut Farming in Canada, presented in part by Italian confectionary giant, Ferrero.

Ferrero, the very name brings forth images of luxurious chocolates that show up most often around Christmas or Valentine’s Day. But Ferrero is about more than just chocolate – it is a global corporation that prides itself on social responsibility. With the company planning on making a huge investment in Southern Ontario, this is the ideal time to bring this company into perspective.

Ferrero was started in the 1940’s after the second world war by Pietro Ferrero when he and his wife Piera turned their bake shop into a factory. The business took off and has remained in family hands right up to the present day. Today, Ferrero is known as Italy’s largest confectionary company and is considered the most reputable of all private businesses worldwide. The company already operates in Canada with a factory located in Brantford, Ontario but a proposed deal could bring a new crop to Ontario farmers throughout Southern Ontario.

Ferrero along with the Ontario Hazelnut Association are interested in having Canadian farmers grow hazelnuts that the company will use in making their products. Though there have been hazelnuts grown in Canada for well over 60 years, these hazelnuts are not at the same standard as required by Ferrero. In order to produce a yield of the quality that the company demands, the University of Guelph has teamed up with Canadian farmers in Southern Ontario to determine what variety of hazelnut trees will best suite farmers’ needs. In addition, the Canadian government has expressed interest in creating incentives to entice farmers to grow hazelnuts in the region. The crop requires a high investment up front followed by a larger payout four to five years down the road and as such requires assistance before it can become a sustainable crop. The goal is to create a new product and market for Canadian farmers that will benefit the farmers, the economy and Ferrero.

The Ferrero plant in Brantford has been open since 2006 and employs over one thousand people at peak production time. By increasing their presence in Canada, not only will Ferrero have a new producer of goods it needs, the company will open up an entirely new market to Canadian farmers. Hazelnut trees provide four to five times the yield of other fruit trees and live for 50 to 70 years. Though the start-up cost and time required is high, with a period of four to five years before crops can be harvested, the potential profits from growing hazelnuts are incredibly high comparative to other crops simply because of how much can be grown from an adult tree. Furthermore, hazelnuts are a low maintenance crop, allowing farmers to reduce their costs. This agreement between the Ontario Hazelnut Association and Ferrero promises to bring new options to Canadian farmers during an economically troubling time and help Canadian people by growing delicious hazelnuts in Canada.