The truffle industry in Western Australia

Page last updated: Tuesday, 14 July 2020 - 3:26pm

The truffle industry in Western Australia, to date, has been developed around the black truffle produced by Tuber melanosporum, also known internationally as French black truffle or Perigord truffle. The first commercial plantings of T. melanosporum in Western Australia occurred in 1997, with the first black truffle harvested in 2003, with production steadily increasing since. The majority of WA produced black truffles are exported.

Where are truffles produced in Western Australia

Commercial crops of black truffles are successfully being harvested around Manjimup, Pemberton and Northcliffe, and are starting to be harvested from Margaret River, Denmark and Walpole. Inoculated host trees have also been planted in the areas around the Perth Hills, Toodyay, Donnybrook, Busselton and Nannup, it is not known how successful production will be in these and other areas of the south west of Western Australia (WA). The following figure shows the general location of the known truffle orchards in the south-west of WA in 2019. These are general locations of orchards that have been planted with inoculated host trees for the plans to produce truffles, not necessarily orchards that are currently producing truffles.

Location of truffle orchards in Western Australia, showing a large cluster in the Manjimup Shire
The distribution of known truffle orchards in the south-west of Western Australia (the dots do not provide any indication of orchard size)

Truffle varieties produced in Western Australia

Currently only Tuber melanosporum black truffles are produced commercially in WA. There are four Tuber species permitted to be imported and grown in Western Australia – see Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) publication ‘Sourcing inoculated trees for truffle production in Western Australia’ for more details. Of the other three species permitted, only T. magnatum is known to have been inoculated onto host trees planted in Western Australia – though no production of truffles has been reported to date.

Western Australian truffle industry size

Plantings of truffle innoculated trees have been steadily increasing since the original plantings. In 2019 there were some 70 known truffle orchards in WA, covering just over 300 hectares in total. It is estimated that less than half of these have reached maturity and are producing steady profitable yields (based on observations made by the members of Truffle Producers Western Australia, the peak industry body in WA).

Western Australian truffle production and markets

At present, there are no definitive figures on the total production of black truffles in WA, only export figures. In 2019, WA exported just under eight tonnes of Tuber melanosporum black truffles; this was extrapolated from Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) 2019 export data (January to October 2019 only, provisional release data). In 2019, WA accounted for almost 90% of truffle exports from Australia. The following figure shows the steady growth of truffle exports from Australia and in particular Western Australia since 2007.

steady increase in tonnes of Australian truffle exports
Annual volume of truffle exports from Australia, showing Western Australia’s share of the total volume (DPIRD extrapolated ABS export data, 2019 - January to October only and provisional release data)

When reviewing the export data contained in this report, be aware that ABS data combines all truffle varieties and some mushroom species as one, to extrapolate the data, a minimum value of $75 per kg FOB was used to filter the raw data. This bottom filter value may have captured some higher value mushrooms. As WA is only known to produce and market Tuber melanosporum truffles, these are considered to represent 100% of the extrapolated amount of WA truffles exported.

Based on comments from industry that WA exported roughly 80% of its production in 2019 and the extrapolated export figures, the total Tuber melanosporum truffle production in WA for 2019 was estimated at between 9 and 10 tonnes of saleable truffles.

WA produced black truffles are sold locally, nationally and internationally, including markets in North America, Europe, Asia, the Pacific and Africa.

Western Australian truffle supply season

Tuber melanosporum, is a winter production truffle, therefore, fresh Western Australian grown black truffles are available from late May to the end of August, with peak supply in July. Note that truffles can be frozen and may be available outside of this window depending on annual volumes and demand during the peak harvesting season. The following figure provides the monthly export figures from WA for May to October in 2019 (DPIRD extrapolated ABS export data, provisional release data).

WA truffle exports peaked at just over 3500kg July
Total monthly volume of truffles exported from Western Australia from May to October in 2019 (DPIRD extrapolated ABS export data, 2019 provisional data)

Contact information

Alec McCarthy
+61 (0)8 9780 6273

Author

Alec McCarthy

Seasons