"Some smaller growers are adding value by covering them in chocolate and selling them in a nice box or turning them into oil for salad dressings and even cosmetics," he said, adding that the US-bred Butler variety, which has become more widespread in British commercial growing, produces nuts considerably bigger than native British varieties and is "extremely prolific, but some say the taste isn't as good".
Association chairman John Cannon added: "The overall acreage of nut trees is increasing. But it's expensive getting nuts to supermarkets - it's not a product that they're geared up for. They are buying fresh produce every day but nuts have a long shelf life. Ten trays on a pallet doesn't pay, but 100 would.
"It costs twice as much to pick them off the trees than off the ground, but we can't do that because the wildlife gets them first - squirrels, rooks and badgers, of which there are thousands."