Truffle industry set for rapid growth
Australian truffle production could grow by as much as 10 times its current level by 2013, but market development and further research will be needed to ensure the industry has a long-term future.These are some of the conclusions of a stocktake of the industry to be presented this weekend by the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation (RIRDC) at a meeting of the Australian Truffle Growers Association in Victoria.
The research established that production is likely to grow from 800 kg in 2007 (currently worth $1.6 million) to between five and 10 tonnes in 2013 from existing truffières alone.
The size of mature truffière land is expected to increase from 250 ha to 600 ha in the same time frame at an average growth rate of over 20 per cent per year.
Truffles are unique underground mushrooms that grow on the roots of trees which either naturally host the fungi or have been inoculated with truffle spores. Truffle production in Australia began in Tasmania in the 1990s with assistance from RIRDC and has now spread to all other states. The first harvest was in Tasmania in 1999, after eight years of hard work to enable production of the delicacy.
Despite being a relatively new crop to Australia, truffles are one of the most highly sought after and valued foods in the world, with Australian truffles currently selling for between $2000 and $3000 per kg. Despite being highly sought after by many chefs, it is not used often due to the considerable cost of purchase.
The cost is so high due to the difficulties with creating the right environment for the truffles to grow.
RIRDC’s General Manager of New Industries, Dr Roslyn Prinsley, said the stocktake points to future success for the industry but also highlights constraints that need to be addressed. “This snapshot of the industry highlights the future growth in production and increasing investment from large-scale growers,” she said. “However it also highlights the need for export market research and development, particularly in Asia, and education of consumers in Australia.”
“Further work will be needed to address biosecurity issues, industry sustainability and climate change, and research and development into marketing, production yields, quality and consistency of supply,” Dr Prinsley concluded.
Truffles are indeed so prized that Stanley Ho, the casino mogul from Macau, was willing to pay a record US$330,000 for a 1.5kg white truffle last year. The price was a record for a truffle and valued the product at a staggering $220,000/kg.
‘Taking Stock of the Australian Truffle Industry’ is available at www.rirdc.gov.au/new.