MOXEE, Wash. — U.S. hop growers set new records in acres harvested and value of production in 2016, and reached second best in production volume.
Increases have been fueled for several years by growth of the craft beer industry but now supply has caught up with demand, said Pete Mahony, director of supply chain management and purchasing for John I. Haas, a major processor and grower in Yakima.
“Some varietal re-balancing needs to occur but total U.S. acreage now seems sufficient to meet demand,” Mahony said.
Extract from hop cones is used in making beer.
A total of 50,857 acres were harvested, up 17 percent from the 2015 total of 43,633 acres and besting the record of 44,653 set in 1915, according to a Dec. 16 report from the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service.
Value of production is estimated at $498 million, up 44 percent from the prior record of $345 million in 2015. The increase in value is driven by greater production of higher value aroma varieties for craft breweries over lesser value alpha varieties for mass-production brewers. That shift caused higher average prices per pound in Washington, Oregon and Idaho for an average of $5.72 per pound up from $4.38 in 2015, NASS said.
While that all sounds great for growers, people have to remember growers’ costs are “increasing at a dramatic rate driven by the minimum wage and more growers using H-2A (foreign guest) workers and the costs of housing and transportation associated with that,” said Ann George, executive director of Hop Growers of America and the Washington Hop Commission in Moxee.
Pacific Northwest growers wrapped up harvest this past fall with pre-harvest stocks just 2 percent greater than the year before, indicating supply is catching up with demand.
“It’s my suspicion we will probably see the rate of planting decrease but will see some new acreage this (coming) year,” George said. “Some varieties are at equilibrium or a little above. Some specialty varieties are still in short supply.”
Determining equilibrium in varieties of just a few hundred acres can be difficult, she said, because weather plays a role in yield and export demand still is increasing for some varieties.
Mahony said new plantings will continue due to contracts made 6 to 12 months ago, but the rate of increase will be much lower than recent years.
“It could be at least 1,500 to 2,000 acres going in for 2017 but it is questionable whether any of this is truly needed in the slowing market. I would expect no expansion in 2018,” he said.
Acreage in Washington was up 16 percent to 37,444; it was up 17 percent to 7,765 acres in Oregon; and up 16 percent to 5,648 in Idaho, NASS said.
With more acreage comes more investment in equipment and labor, George said. Quality control of new food safety programs required by brewers also are driving up costs, she said.
“While some varieties — most notably bittering hop CTZ — didn’t fare as well due to mildew and climatic pressure, brewers are putting in orders for hops that have exciting aromas but simply do not yield as much per acre,” said Blake Crosby, vice president of Hop Growers of America and president of Crosby Hop Farm LLC, Woodburn, Ore.
“As an industry we are happy to plant these, but more acres are required to deliver the same amount, pound for pound,” he said.
U.S. production gained 11 percent in 2016 for the second year in a row, reaching 87.1 million pounds for Washington, Oregon and Idaho, compared with 78.8 million pounds in 2015 and 70.9 million in 2014. The record is 94.6 million pounds in 2009.
Washington produced 75 percent of the national crop at 65.4 million pounds. Cascade, Simcoe, Zeus, Centennial, Citra, and Mosaic were the six leading varieties in Washington, accounting for about 58 percent of the state’s hop crop.
Oregon produced 12.4 million pounds with Nugget, Cascade, and Willamette accounting for 49 percent. Idaho produced 9.3 million pounds with Zeus, Cascade and Mosaic making up 42 percent.
Michigan and a few other states are beginning to grow hops, but NASS doesn’t track their low volumes. Washington, Oregon and Idaho make up the vast bulk of U.S. production and one-third of world supply.