Grants fund study, export options for healthful fruit
By CRAIG REED
For the Capital Press
BANDON, Ore. -- The 2011 Western Oregon cranberry crop resulted in higher yields and prices, growers say.
Grower Ted McKenzie, a member of the Oregon Cranberry Growers Cooperative, said he received 35 cents a pound or $35 for a 100-pound barrel of fresh cranberries. Wayne Everest, an independent grower, said he's heard of producers getting 30 to 35 cents a pound. Mike Stamatakos, vice president of agricultural supply and development for the Ocean Spray cooperative, said the 75 members of Ocean Spray "will likely earn a return per barrel of approximately $65 -- a record-setting return in company history."
In 2010, the volume of the cranberry crop was down and the price was about half of what growers earned this year, grower Scott McKenzie said. He explained that a hard freeze in December 2009 damaged buds and a cold, wet pollination period during the following May and June resulted in a decreased 2010 crop.
Wisconsin, another cranberry-producing state, also had a below average crop in 2010 and its 2011 crop was hurt by a cold, late spring, resulting in smaller berries that didn't color well.
With a shortage of berries carried over into 2011, the year's Oregon crop was in high demand. McKenzie said the Neil Jones Food Co. of Vancouver, Wash., made an early offer of 24.5 cents a pound to independents and then Smuckers followed with a 30 cents offer.
"There has been more competition for the berries this year than there has been in the last several years," he said.
Coos and Curry counties produce most of the cranberries grown in Oregon and the overall 2011 crop was tabbed to be about average -- 350,000 to 400,000 barrels. The bogs in those counties average about 180 barrels per acre.
"I've heard a lot of mixed results," said Everest of harvest yields. "Our crop was up from last year. Some people are up, some down, but most people are up from last year even if they didn't get to the average."
Everest said his harvest this year was one of his best in his 10 years in the business. He added that last year his yield was down 60 percent.
Stamatakos praised the quality of the berries grown by the Ocean Spray member.
"The quality of this year's crop has been good, but we have seen more small fruit than usual," he said. "Some growers feel this is due to the late bloom this year, which is a result of a cool, wet spring."
Ocean Spray was expecting its Oregon crop for 2011 to come in at just over 133,500 barrels, an increase over last year's 125,000 barrel total.
Scott McKenzie said a $90,000 Oregon Department of Agriculture grant is being used to market cranberries to foreign countries and a $20,000 grant is available for a market study to determine what cranberry products will sell best overseas.
Everest said he's optimistic about growing cranberries because the fruit is always associated with good nutrition and health and more and more people are seeking such food.
"I think there'll always be a demand for cranberries," he said. "The China and Asian markets are new and upcoming and could be substantial."
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's statistical services, the forecast for the cranberry harvest for all of the U.S. was 7.5 million barrels, up 10 percent from 2010.
Cranberry school Feb. 2
Growers will meet for the annual Oregon Cranberry School on Feb. 2 at the Sprague Theater in Bandon.
Topics will include diseases, insect- and weed-control strategies, new products and new labels for cranberry use and using water for irrigation, chemigation and frost control. Research on new varieties, plant nutrition and weed control will be presented.
The Oregon Cranberry Growers' Association sponsors the school. Cost is $10 for association members and $75 for others. Information: 541-572-5263.