With a black truffle harvesting season that runs from mid-May to early September, and volumes increasing year after year, truffle growers in the southern hemisphere encountered a full-blown pandemic and completely closed borders, which of course nullified export possibilities. In July some restaurants in some countries reopened and demand recovered somewhat, both domestic and export. Even so, several truffle growers explain the nightmare of searching for new shipping channels, some through unusual hubs.
In this link you can see the potential maps for truffle cultivation in some of these countries.
TRUFFLE PRODUCTION & EXPORTS IN AUSTRALIA
Australia has 192 members in its growers association. Best guess for Australian total production of T. melanosporum is 12.0t to 12.5t Clean, being similar to 2019.
Anecdotally rot levels were higher than the past 4 years, probably due to
· Impact of severe drought followed by heavy rains across the truffle growing regions of eastern Australia
· Longer rotation between hunts due to lack of access to markets – many producers not selling their crop
The Manjimup/Pemberton region in Western Australia again produced over 80-90% of Australia total production of T. melanosporum
Total sales of Fresh Truffle were down, unsold product being “dumped” or frozen, either to be re-used in the orchard or sold later. Actual frozen volumes are unknown and subject to speculation.
Domestic Fresh Truffle Sales: Difficult to ascertain with most of Australia’s F&B Industry on a stop-go-stop during the entirety of our fresh season. In past 2 years Domestic Sales of Fresh Truffle have been estimated about 1.2t – this year it is “guessed” at less than 500kg given Melbourne was “closed” for the majority of the season. Another contributing factor domestically was broken logistics with shipments across Australia taking up to 2 weeks rather than 48 hours in a usual year – that time delay does not work for sending fresh truffle.
Export Fresh Truffle Sales: Australian Bureau of Statistics data indicates Exports of Fresh Truffle from Australia were 6.9t – down 13% on the past 2 years. Again all the Covid-19 factors that resulted in broken logistics, higher freight costs, a F&B industry in turmoil, credit risk and consumer uncertainty in all contributed to lower fresh truffle exports from Australia
TRUFFLE GROWING IN NEW ZEALAND
Hard to get real data in this country as growers are still very silent. Probably they did not produced more than 500kg.
The former president say that “realistically, the current market for fresh truffle in NZ at the moment may be about 250 kg per season. We need to get an export market going”
The production is growing including a proportion of Bianchetto (perhaps 20%).
NZ was one of the countries that did better with Covid, so truffle season was still okay, as NZ came out of Lockdown in May, as the season commenced. So the whole season run on mostly Level 1 of 4. Sales were steady for the whole of the season.
TRUFFLE GROWING IN SOUTH AFRICA
In this country most plantations are still young, so the season 2020 was quite good for some growers, producing 50% more in yield than last year. Growers were able to travel with special permits for harvesting to the farms that are within our own province. But courier services were unreliable during lockdown.
Covid interrupted sales to restaurants as the government had to close all fine dining establishments therefore growers were unable to sell to chefs as before. A whole new market of private sales opened up. More and more people learned to cook at home, seeking more interesting and luxurious ingredients.
Some farmers actually left their truffles in the land hoping for a better season next year.
So generally truffle sales in South Africa was very good this season, but due to the Corona Virus pandemic and many borders being closed, it is hard to establish a realistic result of quantities produced in South Africa. My guess after talking with several growers is around 200 kilos produced.
TRUFFLE FARMING IN CHILE
Chile has about 300 hectares of black truffle plantations. The 2020 season accounted for 1.35 tons of black truffle, 60% more than in 2019, which reached 800kg. Export complex at the beginning of the season due to Covid, but then improved especially at the end of it.
In addition, work is beginning with other varieties of truffles, such as Tuber borchii, of which approximately 18 ha have been established among the Metropolitan and Aysén regions, which are mostly in their second year of growth.
In the season that ended at the beginning of September, there was a significant increase in national consumption (gastronomic use), reaching approximately 25% of production (in 2019 domestic consumption was around just 10%) and 55% was intended for export. It is worth bearing in mind that the practice of reinoculating plantations with spores (spanish wells) also generates significant truffle consumption.
The effects of the CIVID pandemic were strongly felt in the difficulties of internal and external logistics and in the decrease in demand from foreign customers due to the closure of the HORECA channel (hotels and restaurants) in Europe, the United States and Asia. It should be taken into account that Brazil and Mexico are two of the main countries importing Chilean truffles, whose demand was zero. However, with the rebound in external demand beginning in mid-July and the significant increase in domestic consumption, the marketing of fresh truffles was able to recover from the pessimistic outlook.
More information on the website of the Chilean Truffle Growers Association.
TRUFFLE FARMING IN ARGENTINA
This year the season began with the restaurants and hotels closed and some small producers were not even able to reach their plantations for the hunting, until well into the season.
Despite the pandemic, interest in black truffles in Argentina is on the rise and many consumers, confined to their homes, decided to enjoy truffles. Which was a challenge for all producers, testing the logistics of each one, taking into account how sensitive the truffle is in its transport and also having increased the delivery points with a lower weight per order than last season, due to the lack of restaurants in operation and having more orders from consumers in their homes. The main Argentine producer so far (who has provided me with this information), Trufas del Nuevo Mundo, offered imaginative proposals like an online truffle hunt.
We estimate that the production in Argentina could have reached 250 kg, which allows it to reach an interesting volume to export.
Regarding the planted area in the country, it is estimated between 110 and 120 Ha. With a total of at least 15 truffle growers.
The largest amount of truffle is concentrated in the province of Buenos Aires, and it is currently the province with the largest amount of Kg produced. Some truffle plants also continue to develop in other provinces such as Neuquén, Rio Negro, Chubut, Córdoba and Tucumán.
All the best!
Marcos S. Morcillo