(MENAFN - AzerNews) By Leman Mammadova
Azerbaijan is one of the few countries in the world enjoying favorable climate conditions suitable for hazelnut growing.
Several varieties of hazelnuts, such as Atababa, Ashrafli, Ghalib, Ganja, Sachagly, Topgara and Yagly, are cultivated in Azerbaijan. Hazelnut growing is one of the main sources of income for the population in the northwestern regions of Azerbaijan. It is also often a family business in Balakan, Zagatala, Gakh, Gabala, Khachmaz, and Shabran regions.
Hazelnuts produced in Khachmaz region are mainly exported to Russia, and those produced in Gabala, Oghuz, Gakh, Zagatala and Balakan regions are exported to European countries.
Azerbaijan exported 12,248 tons of peeled hazelnuts worth $67.9 million in the first half of 2019. The exports increased 1.8 times in quantitative terms and 1.9 times in value terms compared to the same period last year.
Russia, Italy and Germany were the major importers of Azerbaijani hazelnuts. In particular, 5,254 tons of hazelnuts worth $26.4 million were exported to Russia, 4,124 tons for $24.8 million to Italy, and 1,734 tons for $10.2 million to Germany in the first half of 2019.
Azerbaijan has recently begun cooperation with Turkey and Georgia in the production of hazelnuts.
Today Azerbaijan is one of the largest hazelnut producers and exporters. Hazelnuts are now among the country's main export goods after oil and gas products. Industry experts expect annual exports worth $150-200 million in the near future. Currently, Azerbaijan exports hazelnuts to more than 25 countries.
Last year, Azerbaijan exported 18,223 tons of peeled hazelnut worth $93.5 million.
Presently, the country tries to expand its export routes and enter new markets. Thus, this year, Zagatala hazelnut processing plant plans to export products to the Swiss market. During the Azerbaijani export mission's visit to Switzerland, preliminary agreements on hazelnut export were reached with Switzerland's GNC, Varistor, Delica and other influential companies. Switzerland agreed to import 220 tons of hazelnuts worth $125,000.
The plant also intends to increase exports to other European markets, in particular, to Germany.
In addition, at exhibitions in Dubai (Gulfood 2017) and Germany (Prowein), where Azerbaijani companies took part, orders for exporting hazelnuts to Spain were received.
In 2016, Ferrero, the world's largest buyer of hazelnuts, started purchasing large quantities of Azerbaijan's hazelnuts. Recently, Azerbaijani company Azhazelnut signed a contract with Latvia's Alisco for the export of hazelnuts to Latvia worth $250,000.
The export of non-oil products will stimulate the expansion of the Azerbaijani products' markets and will further strengthen the non-oil sector's share in the structure of the GDP.
The programs for expanding the manufacture and processing of agricultural products that have been adopted in recent years and those still at the planning stage will contribute to greater self-sufficiency in the food and beverage industry.
Leman Mammadova is AzerNews' staff journalist, follow her on Twitter: @leman_888
Follow us on Twitter @AzerNewsAz