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Resources not the only underground exports from WA

06 August, 2007

While Western Australia’s resources sector continues to drive exports, one company from the West is finding new markets for their “Black Gold” in the United States.

Manjimup-based, The Wine and Truffle Company is exporting its black truffles to upmarket speciality retailer Balducci’s, which has 10 stores in the north-eastern United States, including its two flagship stores in Manhattan.

The Wine and Truffle Company started exporting their Western Australian-grown truffles after exhibiting its products through an Austrade-organised stand at the Summer Fancy Foods Show held recently in New York City.

Managing Director, Wally Edwards said Austrade provided support, advice and contacts that helped the company with its launch into US market.

“We received enormous support from many people in Austrade’s American food team. Austrade is always in the background working, providing contacts and resources which we have used to open doors and develop working relationships,” Edwards said.

Beth Goslin, Australian Trade Commission’s (Austrade) specialist Business Development Manager (Food) based in New York said this deal further enhanced Australia’s reputation as an excellent source of quality gourmet products.

“With Australia being in the Southern Hemisphere and the seasons being reversed, black truffles in July are a big surprise to the US market and an added attraction.

“The specialty food industry trade show, considered one of the most influential in the United States, has increased exposure and helped create an entry into the US market for many other exhibitors like The Wine and Truffle Company,” Goslin said.

While The Wine and Truffle Company’s operations commenced in 1997 with the planting of 13,000 hazelnut trees, the first crop of nuts only matured in 2002, with the first and highly valued truffles (Tuber Melanosporum) harvested in July 2003.

The rare delicacy sometimes called ‘black gold’ – due to its inky black colour – are very aromatic and round but can also vary in shape and size.

They grow on tree roots which have been infected with truffle spores and are located underground by their scent using trained dogs and pigs which sniff them out.

Edwards said while last year they found the largest ever truffle outside of France, weighing one kilogram and valued at $3000, the biggest truffle this year weighed over 800 grams and was found in the first week of June.

“While truffle season only lasts three months from June to August, production this year has been very strong and we are on target to record over 400 kilograms, quadrupling last year’s result,” Edwards said.

Balducci’s currently sells the truffles by special order for US$1,495 a pound, with the smallest order being a quarter pound at US$373.75.

Goslin added the recent Australia-United States Free Trade Agreement (AUSFTA) had assisted in securing the deal.

“AUSFTA continues to add value to imported Australian food with numerous tariff reductions and quota increases on specialty food items, making them even more competitive and appealing to American buyers,” Goslin said.

The Austrade American based food team are currently working on securing a stand for the Winter Fancy Foods in January 2008 at San Diego.

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