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Agri Australis's  general manager Claudio Cavallini with some of the mature hazelnut trees due for harvest next year. He has proudly overseen the venture from the start. Exclusive photos by Rachael Webb.

Agri Australis's general manager Claudio Cavallini with some of the mature hazelnut trees due for harvest next year. He has proudly overseen the venture from the start. Exclusive photos by Rachael Webb.

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Hazelnuts as far as the eye can see as Agri doubles plantation

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Hazelnut trees as far as the eye can see - that’s a great sight for the Australian nut industry at Sandigo near Narrandera.

Agri Australis, part of the giant Ferrero Italian chocolate manufacturer, have made a statement about their faith in their Australian venture - doubling their plantation.

It was all hands on deck when The Land was given a rare glimpse of Agri Australis’s  property, with thousands of young hazelnut trees being planted on the undulating slopes.

Meanwhile, those trees planted six years ago will be due for harvest next year - an exciting time for the company and a proud moment for Agri’s general manager Claudio Cavallini. Mr Cavallini spends his time moving from his Sydney base to Narrandera to oversee the plantation. 

Agri Australis said in a statement: ‘’At this stage 475,000 trees have been planted over 950 hectares, weather conditions have delayed planting, but all trees will be planted by 2018.

“Following the planting phase, Agri Australis anticipate the first commercial harvest to begin after 2018 with full production by 2022. During this period, we will engage in dialogue with commercial growers.”

The older trees are just starting to make their own pollen for reproduction. This is a sign that they are close to bearing fruit. Hazelnut trees bloom and pollinate in the middle of winter, unlike many plants. They reach commercial production at about six years of maturity.

At Agri’s Sandigo property many of the workers are busy placing young trees in the paddock. A lot of the workers are backpackers. There are also areas on the farm appearing as if they will hold future plantings, being marked out with laser buckets.

Ferrero is the world’s third-biggest chocolate and confectionary company. It makes well-known brands such as Nutella and  Ferrero Rocher chocolates. The company’s traditional hazelnut plantations are in  Brazil, Italy, China, Germany, Poland and India. The plants used in Australia have been imported from Chile. It’s Australian venture has attracted about $70 million of investment on a property once used to graze sheep and even potato farming. Ferrero bought adjacent farms,  Dellapool and Arrambee, and increased its water holdings.

The majority of the world’s hazelnuts are grown in Turkey. Agri hopes other farmers in the Riverina will join in the industry, using their Dellapool property as an inspiration to farm hazelnuts.

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