24/08/2015 - 16:40

Maturing trees to lift truffle numbers

24/08/2015 - 16:40

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Maturing trees to lift truffle numbers

Truffle production in Western Australia’s South West is on the verge of significant growth as a number of new producers enter the market and a series of previously planted trees reach maturity.

About 8,000 additional hazelnut and oak trees will be coming to full maturity, lifting production of the truffles that grow beneath them by about 25 per cent in the next few seasons.

The new trees will last at least a decade, according to the Truffle Producers of Western Australia group, and it is expected the overwhelming majority of the output will be exported.

Currently, around 95 per cent of WA’s eight tonnes per annum supply heads overseas, where it retails for up to $3,000 per kilogram. Farmgate prices are between $1,000 and $1,500/kg.

Truffle Producers of Western Australia chairman Mark Horwood said the industry was still in its formative stages.

“It’s like the early days of the wine industry … there’s a certain amount of mystique,” he said.

Mr Horwood said the industry would be proactive in creating strategies to promote demand for truffles to avoid the supply glut problems the wine sector had experienced.

As the truffle sector was comparatively new, producers would be able to learn from the mistakes of other, similar, industries and avoid them, he said.

Within a few years, truffles will be the second largest agricultural industry in the South West, with avocadoes in the top spot, according to Mr Horwood.

Although Europe and the US are the top destinations for WA truffles, Mr Horwood said he hoped the free trade agreement recently sealed with China would extend the market for the delicacy.

China is the largest consumer of fungi per capita in the world.

Southern Forests Food Council chairman Bevan Eatts was even more bullish, saying there were expectations the harvest could reach up to 30t annually by 2030.

By comparison, WA exports of abalone in 2013-14 were around $11 million, while prawn exports were $18 million, according to the Department of Agriculture and Food.

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