HEA - Truffles

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6.30      Truffles

6.30.1      Truffle industry profile

Truffles are the underground fruiting bodies of fungi that live in a close symbiotic relationship with suitable host plants. The highest-value truffles grown in New Zealand are the Périgord black truffle and the Bianchetto white truffle, both northern hemisphere species. Truffles have fetched $2,000 to $3,000 per kilogram on the local retail market in recent years. High levels of black truffle production in Australia mean that the retail price of black truffles there is significantly lower. Prices in Europe fluctuate from year to year depending on the size of the harvest.

The first black truffles were produced in Gisborne in 1993, and the first commercial production of Bianchetto white truffle in Christchurch in 2008. Since then the number of people growing truffles has grown, partly due to increasing awareness of local production through the media and use of truffles by chefs. Commercial nurseries have also become involved in promoting truffle-growing, with an increased supply of truffle-inoculated tree seedlings.

The New Zealand Truffle Association (NZTA) represents the interests of truffle growers, and assists with promoting and developing truffle growing in New Zealand. Most truffle trees planted before 2004 are in Canterbury, while more recent plantings are spread throughout New Zealand. The black truffle tends to prefer warmer climates, while Bianchetto can be grown in cooler areas that are less suitable for black truffle.

A 2016 survey by NZTA shows there are approximately 75 truffières (truffle orchard) in New Zealand. Most are small to medium-sized plantings of 0.5 to 2 ha. An estimated 50% of these have yet to produce truffles. Production is complicated by the difficulty in locating the product underground. Total production is not known, but the NZTA estimates that truffle production was around 500 kg in 2020, up from approx. 200kg in 2018. The increase in production has been assisted by the increased number of trained truffle dogs as well as several professional handlers with dogs working to find truffle. Only a portion of the total production is of high enough quality for fresh consumption, and most are sold to restaurants. However, there is increasing production of truffled products such as cheese, butter and oils. The remainder is used to inoculate seedlings, or may go unharvested. All New Zealand truffle production is sold domestically, with room for this market to develop.

New Zealand has potential to supply the high-value markets of Southeast Asia, Europe, and the United States during the off-season for European production. The challenge for these markets, particularly those in Europe, is to appreciate the availability of fresh out of season truffle. The challenge for exporters is to secure sufficient and consistent volume and ensure this has an uninterrupted and reliable cool chain through to offshore customers.

Truffles are a prescribed product under the Horticulture Export Authority. The NZTA continues to prepare for exports by refining its export marketing strategy in accordance with the requirements of the Horticultural Export Authority. The current version of this strategy incorporates updated New Zealand truffle standards for the export of truffles, prepared by NZTA. In developing this standard, the industry has referenced the relevant standard developed by the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE FFV-53 2010). This internationally-recognised standard is also being adopted by the Australian Truffle Growers Association.

 

Exports

Table 6.30.1: Truffles (0712.39.11.00) export markets 2018-2020 (year ending June, tonnes and $NZ FOB)

Market

2018

2019

2020

Volume

Value

Volume

Value

Volume

Value

Pacific Islands

0.034

3126

0.014

742

0.007

453

Total

0.034

$3,126

0.014

$742

0.007

$453

 

Barriers to export

SPS market access barriers

Apart from the comparatively high cost of obtaining a phytosanitary certificate for export purposes, presently there are no major regulatory issues facing truffle exporters. To date, few truffles have been exported. Current impediments to exporting include;

  • cost of preparing and freighting small quantities of product,
  • the perishable nature of the product, and difficulty of retaining it in good condition while in transit,
  • cost and time of customs clearance,
  • strong current domestic demand (prices), and
  • uncertain volumes to meet customer demands.

 In 2018 MPI released an import health standard for truffles for consumption. This was of concern to the industry, as it no longer required molecular testing of every consignments, instead requiring testing of random consignments. This testing was for a contaminant species Tuber indicum, a lesser black truffle from China that is difficult to distinguish from Périgord black truffle (Tuber melanosporum). Having this species enter the New Zealand market would complicate truffle exports.