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Hazelnut industry renewal is taking root in Chilliwack and beyond

Ag minister Lana Popham toured Chilliwack orchards to see success of disease-resistant varieties
B.C. Agriculture Minister Lana Popham poses with a bin of harvested hazelnuts while on a tour of Chilliwack orchards on March 29. (Submitted)

Rebuilding of the hazelnut sector is taking root.

Lana Popham, B.C. minister of agriculture, was in Chilliwack on Friday to see how the fight against Eastern filbert blight has been going in the Fraser Valley.

“The past decade has not been kind to our province’s hazelnut sector, with Eastern Filbert blight (EFB) wiping out many of B.C.’s hazelnut orchards,” said Popham.

SEE MORE: High hopes for hazelnuts

“Our government and our sector are joining forces to fight this disease, and with the help of the Hazelnut Renewal Program, to rebuild B.C.’s hazelnut industry.”

She noted that hazelnuts are the only edible tree nuts that grow well in B.C.’s current climate.

Chilliwack has been ground zero for the rejuvenation of the B.C. industry, with several hectares planted with a highly resistant type of tree to the dreaded blight.

Minister Popham stopped by two key orchards while in Chilliwack, the first of which was that of pioneering farmer Helmut Hooge, who showcased the “disease-resistant” varieties growing in his orchard.

A few years ago, Hooge suggested the new strains could “revolutionize” the industry which was devastated by the blight.

The ag minister’s tour continued at Fraser Valley Hazelnuts Ltd, a receiving station where they wash, dry and ship hazelnuts.

In 2018 Fraser Valley Hazelnuts processed about 21,000 kg (46,000 lbs) of hazelnuts, representing about 90 per cent of the production in the province. The company was able to market 70 per cent of last year’s production.

Growers can submit funding applications now for Hazelnut Renewal program from the ag ministry. The goal is supporting the entire sector by allowing nut growers to replace trees and establish new orchards with disease-resistant varieties. There was $300,000 over three years earmarked for the renewal, and this is the second year of the program from Ministry of Agriculture, and they are accepting new applications until July 15, for fall planting.

SEE MORE: Funding for hazelnut renewal

SEE MORE: Future in filberts starting to look brighter


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Jennifer Feinberg

About the Author: Jennifer Feinberg

I have been a Chilliwack Progress reporter for 20+ years, covering the arts, city hall, as well as Indigenous, and climate change stories.
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