Published: 09:01, 22 August 2014
Growers of Kentish cobnuts are expecting an all-time record harvest following last year’s mild winter and a good pollination period in spring.
The arrival of the August Bank Holiday normally signals the beginning of the cobnut-picking season but many crops were already ripe by the beginning of this month.
It is expected the bumper harvest will tip the value of the industry over the £1m barrier from its normal value of about £750,000.
Cobnut production was at its peak in the early 20th century, covering more than 7,000 acres of the Home Counties, but this has drastically fallen away in modern times.
Today about 400 acres of cobnuts are planted each year, of which about 250 is commercially picked, yielding about 250 tonnes a year.
However the record crop has pushed that figure up to about 300 tonnes. Growers usually make about £3,000 a tonne, making this year’s crop worth about £900,000.
This is expected to push revenues for growers through the £1m mark when merchandise is considered.
Kentish Cobnut Association chairman Alexander Hunt said: “The crop is very heavy and very good quality.
“We had two incredibly high yields in 2012 and 2013 and this year is up again.
“We had a very early season thanks to a good pollination period in January and February and a very mild, frost-free winter.
“That money could well be reinvested in plantations. It is a boost for the Kent and Sussex economy where they are grown.
"It is a boost for the Kent and Sussex economy where they are grown and also helps with seasonal employment as there is more to pick and, therefore, more work...” - Cobnut grower Alexander Hunt
“It also helps with seasonal employment as there is more to pick and, therefore, more work.”
Mr Hunt – who farms Kentish cobnuts at Potash Farm in St Mary’s Platt, near Borough Green – said the picking season this year is “the earliest I’ve ever known”.
The pattern has been similar for many agricultural sectors across Kent, with cherry farmers enjoying the longest and largest season on record.
However, it is expected the early start will mean the cobnut season will also finish earlier this year – in mid rather than late September.
Potash Farm attends 14 farmers’ markets a month, plus three to four other specialist events per month.
It serves 120 shops from Quex Park at Birchington to the RHS Wisley shop near Guildford and also serves many top London hotels, restaurants and cafes.
Kentish cobnuts are a variety of hazlenut.
More details at www.kentishcobnuts.com.