MATANE – Like Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean, which is associated with blueberries, Bas-Saint-Laurent wishes to be recognized for hazelnut. The bet is so serious that the eight RCMs of the region participate in the development of this sector.
The process began when the Biopterre research center in La Pocatière was commissioned to draw up an inventory of non-wood forest products in the Bas-Saint-Laurent region and make a diagnosis. The organization met with elected officials, businesses and developers from the eight RCMs to paint a picture of the sector.
“When we asked the question,” What does your region look like when it comes to non-timber forest products? “, Everyone had an anecdote about hazelnut or a youth story,” says the research professional. of Biopterre, Maxim Tardif.
Subsequently, a meeting was convened with people interested in this sector, during which a dozen non-timber forest products were proposed for development in the territory. “Out of the dozen or so products, hazelnut has emerged as the winner,” says Tardif.
Biopterre then submitted a research project to finance the establishment of hazelnut orchards in Bas-Saint-Laurent.
“When we launched the call for producers to start the research project, we hoped to have 10 producers who would raise their hands,” says the researcher. 130 people raised their hands! We had to make a selection. “Finally, 22 producers were chosen. Over a period of 10 years, the committee set up to advance the project is aiming to cultivate 250 hectares of orchards. But before reaching this point, the results of the research will guide the network of producers.
“Being a colder region, we must test different cultivars to identify the most productive and to have maximum production,” says Maxim Tardif.
He believes that Bas-Saint-Laurent has the potential to become a region that will be identified with hazelnut. “When we talk in our communities, it’s an image we use,” says Mr. Tardif. Although the hazelnut grows naturally in different regions of Quebec and there are personal initiatives elsewhere to grow hazel, he believes that the project in the Lower St. Lawrence is innovative in that it federates the eight RCMs of the region and that it is the subject of a network.
In Canada, 90% of the hazelnuts sold come from abroad and represented, in 2015, imports of $ 186 million.