MOXEE, Wash. — This fall’s U.S. hop crop is forecast at 80 million pounds by the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service.
That’s up 13 percent from last year’s 71 million-pound crop and up 7 percent from a 74.5-million-pound estimate for this year given at the International Hop Growers’ Congress in Germany the week of July 27.
The NASS estimate, released Aug. 12, is dated Aug. 1.
Ann George, administrator of Hop Growers of America and the Washington Hop Commission, both in Moxee, said 74.5 million-pound estimate that she gave at the International Congress was based on a survey of growers taken when the crop was just starting to bloom and several weeks earlier than the NASS survey.
She said the NASS number may be more accurate but that no one really knows until the crop is baled.
“I think it will end up being between the two estimates,” she said. “The big message is we don’t anticipate it being smaller (than last year).”
Some national stories speculated about a hop shortage due to heat and drought. In response to that, George said she issued a press release July 29 about the 74.5-million-pound estimate.
“We wanted to reassure our customer base and the public that we wouldn’t have a tremendous hop shortage,” she said.
At the international meeting, it was evident Europe’s hop crop will be down, perhaps significantly, because of drought and wind, Doug MacKinnon, a Yakima hop broker, said at the time.
A shortage in Europe adds market pressures since there’s more U.S. craft brewer demand for aroma hops than there is supply.
Even though U.S. production is up it remains short relative to craft brewer demand, George said.
Some aroma varieties will be short because demand is growing faster than the varieties can be expanded, she said. It takes about two years to get new hop yards into production, she said.
One reason overall yields are forecast to be down this year is that there are a lot of “baby” acres that are not yet producing, George said.
The switch from alpha to aroma varieties affects yields because aroma yield less, she said.
Heat and drought are additional factors reducing yield this year, she said. The larger was heat affecting more of the crop in the Yakima Valley in June when it was blooming, she said. Some hops entered the heat a little drought stressed, she said. Lack of water has been an issue only in portions of the valley served by the Roza and Wapato irrigation districts, not the entire valley, she said.
NASS estimates 57,969,000 pounds for Washington, 11,571,900 for Oregon and 10,447,500 for Idaho. The three states comprise the U.S. crop.
Total area strung for harvest is 43,987 acres, up 16 percent from 2014, NASS said. Yield is forecast at 1,818 pounds per acre, 50 pounds less than last year.
Between 70 and 80 percent of the nation’s hops are grown in the Yakima Valley. Harvest typically starts in late August and runs through September.