Brazil nut crisis — will your granola be hit?

[This is a longer version of a news story that appeared in the Mail on Sunday, May 21]

First it was a courgette drought, then it was avocado hand. Now, middle-class foodies need to brace themselves for another calamity — granola and muesli could soon be off the menu because of a worldwide shortage of Brazil nuts, following a “catastrophic” harvest.

One of the country’s leading manufacturers of granola and cereal bars, Eat Natural, said it was in the process of changing the recipes of many of its products because the supply of nuts had completely run dry around the world. “We’re not going to get a single Brazil nut delivered to our warehouse after June 12th,” explained Praveen Vijh, the co-founder of Eat Natural. “You often get poor harvests with ingredients, but nothing has ever happened on this scale before. It is a complete catastrophe. The Brazil nut harvest has failed completely.”

A spokesman for Jordans, the UK’s biggest granola maker, said: “Sadly, as a result of the failure of the Brazil Nut harvest in the Amazon this year, we are having to consider reducing the number of Brazil nuts we use in some of our recipes.”

Reports suggest that number of Brazil nuts harvested this year is a mere 20 per cent of the volume produced a year ago.

Brazil nuts have become popular with health-conscious consumers and increasingly found in high-energy snack bars, trendy granolas and trail mixes because they are a high source of vitamin B and selenium, which acts as an antioxidant.

Other manufacturers said they were scrabbling around for supplies with many saying it was “touch and go” whether there would be enough, especially for the key season of Christmas — most supermarkets have already started making Christmas cakes, which usually feature Brazil nuts prominently.

Andrew Jackson, procurement director of Whitworths, the nut and dried fruit company, who also supplies brazil nuts for supermarket own-brands, said: “Everyone has already agreed their Christmas ranges. There’s going to be a challenge whether there will be enough brazil nuts available.”

Brazil nuts, which mostly come from Bolivia not Brazil, grow wild and can not be cultivated. They grow in the Amazon rain forest, which last year suffered from a severe lack of rain. The drought in Bolivia was the worst for 25 years with the city of La Paz, for instance, implementing water rationing for the first time.

“It’s horrific,” says Chris MacKinnon, at nut importer RM Curtis. “The nuts are harvested off the floor of the Amazon by hand. They start at the end of the year and usually finish in May. As the collectors have gone further and further into the rainforest and discovered there is hardly any. The crop is down by 80 per cent.”

According to Mr Jackson at Whitworths the price of Brazil Nuts on the wholesale market has already jumped from £8,000 a tonne a year ago to £16,400, meaning that supermarkets will either, have to put up consumer prices or cut Brazils out of their recipes in the coming months.

Paynes, which makes the famous Just Brazils box of chocolate-covered nuts, said it was “touch and go” if they would have enough supply this year, but insisted it was “cautiously optimistic”. However, it admitted that it had already had to put prices to supermarkets.

Mr Vijh at Eat Natural said: “We are having to reformulate [change the recipe] all our bars. And that’s tricky because Brazils have a particularly creamy flavour, and a crisp crunch that is difficult to replicate. We’ll replace with a mixture of cashew and almonds.”

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