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Hop output to increase despite drought

While some hop varieties suffer from heat and drought in Washington's Yakima Valley, the industry anticipates a larger crop because of increased acreage.
Dan Wheat

Capital Press

Published on July 31, 2015 10:02AM

Hop cones in summer growth in Yakima, Wash. The Yakima area is the nation’s leading region in hop production. Acreage is expected to keep increasing this year.

Dan Wheat/Capital Press

Hop cones in summer growth in Yakima, Wash. The Yakima area is the nation’s leading region in hop production. Acreage is expected to keep increasing this year.

MOXEE, Wash. — U.S. hop production will be up 5 percent this year despite heat and drought in the Yakima Valley where 70 to 80 percent of the nation’s hops are grown.

The increase is due to more acres in production, but the crop still “will be very short relative to demand” from the craft brewing industry, said Doug MacKinnon, president of 47 Hops, a Yakima hop dealer.

The U.S. crop was estimated at 74.5 million pounds at the International Hop Growers’ Congress in Germany the week of July 27, according to Hop Growers of America and the Washington Hop Commission, both in Moxee. That’s up 3.5 million pounds from 2014 but short of the record of 94.7 million pounds in 2009.

German and other European crops are down 10 to 20 percent. The world crop is estimated at 198.2 million pounds, down from 211 million in 2014.

MacKinnon, who attended the congress, said German production, which is approximately 40 percent of world production, is a very mixed bag.

“Above average temperatures and lack of rain have taken what was a beautiful crop with enormous potential just six short weeks ago and turned it into a crop that has the potential to be the worst in recent memory,” he said.

Drought and winds are damaging the German crop, estimated to be 16 percent short of 2014 in yields, but it could be far worse without significant rain in the next few weeks, MacKinnon said. Some German growers at the congress said yields could be down 25 percent or even rival 2003 when the German crop was short 50 percent, he said.

Most of the European crop is not irrigated. Most of the Yakima Valley crop is. Yakima growers largely switched to drip irrigation in recent years to save water.

The U.S. is second to Germany in world production and brewers have been concerned drought will reduce the Yakima crop.

Some aroma varieties in the Yakima Valley may drop 10 to 15 percent below average in yields, Hop Growers of America said.

Heat has “severely affected” several varieties but actually improved the outlook of the Cascade variety, MacKinnon said. Some growers in the Wapato Irrigation Project have been “seriously affected” by lack of water, but most growers have not been affected by the drought, he said.

The bigger concern is another dry winter doing greater harm to the 2016 crop, he said.

In June, the National Agricultural Statistics Service said U.S. hop acreage increased 16 percent. Washington is at 32,205 acres, up 3,347 from last year. Oregon is 6,807 up 1,397 from last year and Idaho is 4,975 up 1,232. The increase is driven by craft breweries projecting 20 percent annual growth through 2020.

Hop harvest in the Yakima Valley typically starts in late August and runs through September.


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