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 (Tuber melanosporum) and the Bianchetto white truffle (Tuber borchii), both Northern Hemisphere species. Truffles may fetch 2-3 thousand dollars per kilo on the local retail market. 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.

Truffles are a relatively new crop to New Zealand. The first black truffles produced from NZ mycorrhized trees were in Gisborne in 1993. The first commercial production of Bianchetto white truffle was in Christchurch in 2008. Since then the number of people establishing truffière throughout NZ has grown. This growth has been due in part to increasing awareness of NZ truffle growing and production through the media and truffle use by NZ chefs. In addition, commercial nurseries have become involved in promotion of truffle growing with associated increased supply of truffle inoculated tree seedlings.

The NZ Truffle Association (NZTA) (www.nztruffles.org.nz, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) represents the interests of truffle growers and assists with the promotion and development of truffle growing in New Zealand. The majority of truffle trees planted prior to 2004 are in Canterbury, whilst more recent plantings are more spread throughout NZ. The black truffle tends to prefer warmer climates, whilst Bianchetto can be grown in the cooler parts of NZ less suitable for black truffle. Most truffières have small to medium sized plantings of 0.5 to 2 ha. A 2016 survey by NZTA shows there are approximately 75 truffières in New Zealand. 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. Total production is not known but the NZTA estimates that truffle production was around 200 kg in 2017. Only a portion of the total production is of high enough quality for consumption and restaurant sale with the remainder used for inoculation of seedlings or may go unharvested. Currently almost all of New Zealand’s truffle production enters the domestic market and there is still room for further development of the NZ market.

New Zealand has potential to supply the high value markets of SE 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 “out of season” truffle.

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 EMS incorporates updated NZ Truffle Standards for the export of truffles, prepared by NZTA. In developing this standard, the industry has referenced the UNCE FFV-53 2010 standard. This is an internationally recognised standard, also being adopted by the Australian Truffle Growers Association.

Source: Fresh Facts 2017, New Zealand Truffle Association Website - Results of NZTA Association Survey 2016

SPS market access barriers

Apart from the 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 the 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.

The proposed changes to the Import Health Standard for truffles for consumption is a concern to the industry as this may result in contaminant species and insect larvae that are damaging to truffles being imported into New Zealand. A further concern is that presently New Zealand is free from Tuber indicum, a lesser black truffle from China difficult to distinguish from Périgord black truffle. Should this enter the NZ market, it will complicate exports of NZ truffles.