It’s always difficult to estimate the size of a country’s fresh truffle crop. Firstly, there’s still a lot of secrecy around. Some growers not sharing accurate (or any!) information while others boast more than a bit!
Secondly, what truffle is being counted? Is it all truffle found and harvested? That would include rotten or unsold truffles, and truffle put back into the ground to “re-inoculate” the plantation, so that’s not an accurate measurement of all of the truffles actually harvested and enjoyed around the world. Thirdly, there’s still evidence of a major global truffle substitution racket. An inferior truffle from China, Tuber indicum, which look like the French black Périgord truffle but has little or no aroma, is substituted for and mixed with French Black truffle. Some estimate that while France might produce 40+ tons of Périgord truffles, 20+ tons of the Chinese truffle is imported annually into France and mixed with the valuable local truffle. In 2012 the US 60 Minutes program exposed the tip of this trade - here’s a link to an excerpt from that report – worth watching. While this report mainly focuses on wild truffles and is inaccurate about plantation grown truffles, when it comes to truffle substitution, nothing much has changed since then, although French growers have claimed to be changing their practices. Fortunately, import of the Chinese truffle Indicum is banned in Italy and also Australia, so we can all be confident when we’re buying fresh Australian grown truffle here.
The 2017 Australian truffle season was a strong one right across the country, with an estimated 20 tons of truffle harvested – about double last year. Elsewhere in the Southern hemisphere, there are around 600 Hectares of plantations in Chile and their 2017 harvest was about 500 Kg and in nearby Argentina, around 85 Hectares produced 35 Kg. New Zealand produced about 500 Kg of several different truffles in 2017 – including the French black winter truffle, the Italian Bianchetto white truffle and the Summer truffle. South Africa also started to produce truffles recently and this season about 15 Kg was harvested from around 80 Hectares of relatively young plantations. In North America, most plantations are also very young, but some in Oregon and California have begun to produce.
The European white and black truffle season is now underway. Early reports suggest that in Spain, due to a very dry summer, wild harvests will be minimal, but good production is expected from those plantations where farmers are able to irrigate. Due to the scarcity of wild truffles, those truffle farmers with irrigation should see prices rise a little compared with their 2016 season.