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Hazelnuts: A new crop for the Midwest which also addresses climate change

Savanna Institute
Hazelnuts constitute a nearly $7 billion global market that is on track to double in size over the coming decade, according to the Savanna Institute.

The hazelnut industry is positioned to become an important growth sector in the Midwest agricultural economy, as well as a significant part of the solution to reducing US CO2 emissions, according to a report just released by the Savanna Institute.

Hazelnuts constitute a nearly $7 billion global market that is on track to double in size over the coming decade. Turkey is the current global leader in hazelnut production, but political unrest and reports that many Turkish growers rely on slave labor to harvest their crop has led buyers to seek alternative markets. The Savanna Institute’s report indicates that the Midwest hazelnut market is well-positioned to expand dramatically as the global demand increases.

According to the report, the latent potential of Midwest hazelnuts lies primarily in its ability to supplant soybeans as a staple source of protein and oil. In addition to being eaten fresh, pressed into oil, or ground into flour, hazelnuts can be used in industrial processes that otherwise rely on soybeans.

Because of this, the report argues, hazelnuts could help reverse agriculture’s role as a cause of climate change if adopted broadly. Over 1,500 Mt carbon (~30% of annual US CO2 emissions) could be sequestered in woody biomass alone if hazelnuts replaced the existing 84 million acres of soybeans across the Midwest, according to the Savanna Institute. 

The report identifies 10 major bottlenecks to Midwest hazelnut industry development and makes recommendations to prioritize investment and research dollars. Industry leadership and coordination top the report’s list of priorities for overcoming these bottlenecks.

The report was produced through a collaboration between Savanna Institute and Hyphae Partners, and was funded by the Jeremy and Hannelore Grantham Environmental Trust.

Copies of the Hazelnut Impact Investment Report can be found on the Savanna Institute’s website.