Governments to kick-start Ontario hazelnut sector


Development of hazelnut crop management practices and new and improved processing plants for a major user of hazelnuts are getting federal and provincial government funding in Ontario.

The federal government on Wednesday pledged up to $492,052 to the Ontario Hazelnut Association (OHA) to help develop the hazelnut sector, working with the University of Guelph and the Canadian arm of Italian confectionery firm Ferrero.

The funds will flow through AgriInnovation, a federal-only program under the federal/provincial Growing Forward 2 (GF2) ag policy funding framework. Under the program — now in its final year — all funded projects must be completed by March 31, 2018.

The OHA, set up in 2013, is using the funds to develop orchard management practices to enhance early development of hazelnut trees, develop strategies to mitigate drought stress in nursery trees and establish production techniques to multiply hazelnut plants for commercial use.

“This new crop has enormous potential for Ontario and this support has brought us much closer to realizing our goal of establishing 10,000 hectares in the province by 2027 and creating new economic opportunities for rural communities,” OHA chair Linda Grimo, one of the managers of a family nut nursery in the Niagara region, said in the government’s release.

The funded project, she said, “has been making significant research contributions to the development of the hazelnut industry in Ontario by creating new innovations in micropropagation, variety selection, and orchard management.”

Ferrero Canada, meanwhile, will be the beneficiary of a much larger provincial investment, getting $11 million from Ontario’s Jobs and Prosperity Fund-Food and Beverage Growth Fund toward a $90 million expansion.

The fund was set up in 2015 to provide grants and/or loans to food and beverage processors’ projects with more than $5 million in eligible costs.

Ferrero, the world’s third-largest chocolate manufacturer, operates a plant at Brantford where it makes its hazelnut cocoa spread Nutella, Ferrero Rocher hazelnut chocolates, Nutella + Go snack packs and Tic Tac mints.

The province said Wednesday its funding will go toward Ferrero’s construction of a new cocoa bean processing plant at Brantford; increased manufacturing capacity for Nutella + Go; new processes to make new Tic Tac products, including a brand-new Tic Tac Gum brand; and a new wastewater treatment system.

Fabrizio Secco, managing director for Ferrero Canada, said the new cocoa plant will make the Brantford operation Ferrero’s first outside of Europe to process raw cocoa beans.

The funded projects, Secco said, “are enabling us to create new jobs in our facility and also externally through our suppliers and partners within Brantford and the surrounding area.”

The province said the expansions are to create 80 new jobs at Brantford, while retaining “over 1,000 positions” across Ontario. — Network


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