15 Apr 2014

Domestic struggle for chesnut growers

2:19 pm on 15 April 2014

The fickle nature of overseas markets is haunting this country's struggling chestnut industry.

The Chestnut Council says the domestic market has been difficult to crack because chestnuts are not a common food item here, although that is beginning to change as the Asian population increases.

Council spokesperson David Klinac says Chestnuts are also exported to Asia and Europe, but those markets are unreliable.

"Most of the countries that want to buy chestnuts are chestnut growers - so if they have a good year themselves maybe demand is not quite so high. Or if they have a dry year or a bad year for diseases then they're eager to buy more from New Zealand."

Mr Klinac says chestnuts are a difficult product to deal with as they are a perishable crop.

"Despite being a nut they're not as easy to store and transport, say as peanuts that everyone thinks of. They're mush more like a starchy vegetable, so they do perish and spoil so they do need cool-storage and careful handling," he says.

Mr Klinac says developing technology to shell and peel chestnuts is very important for the future of the industry here.

Most chestnuts grown here are either organic or spray-free, and New Zealand is fortunate it does not have the chestnut diseases found overseas, he says.

Mr Klinac says the industry is not large in New Zealand, with most growers being on small blocks.