Northwest hop acreage continues to grow

Dan Wheat/Capital Press Vincente Pacheco sweeps hop cones from floor as vines overhead are fed into cone stripper at Roy Farms, Moxee, Wash., during harvest in September 2013.

YAKIMA, Wash. — Pacific Northwest hop acreage likely will increase 13 percent this year, driven by continued growth of the craft brewery industry, a leading hop processor says.

Oil in the hop cone is used for flavoring and stabilizing beer.

The USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service will complete an acreage survey in June, but “it appears acreage will go up by 5,000 this year,” said Pete Mahony, director of supply chain management and purchasing for John I. Haas in Yakima. The company is a leader in growing and processing hops, plus research and development.

NASS did release, on March 20, a report on hop stocks as of March 1. It showed the total amount of hops held by growers, dealers and brewers at 119 million pounds, down 2 percent from a year ago.

Of the total, brewers held 43 million pounds, down 12 percent from last year. Growers and dealers had 76 million pounds, up 6 percent.

“It looks like brewers are slower to draw inventory. They may want to let dealers carry costs of cold storage,” Mahony said.

It could be that most of the 119 million pounds is sold and that the amount brewers hold versus the amount growers and dealers hold is a timing issue on shipments, he said.

Haas looks at the total stock number more than the split between dealers and brewers, and said a 2 percent drop is not all that significant, he said.

The 2014 crop was up 2.5 percent in production over 2013, a small increase hampered by a heatwave in July and August that slowed growth, Mahony said.

“Cone size and weight didn’t develop,” he said.

Washington produced 79 percent of the 2014 U.S. crop, Oregon produced 11 percent and Idaho 10 percent, NASS reported in December. Total acreage likely will surpass 40,000 this year with growth in all three states, but mostly in Idaho.

Demand by craft breweries remains strong and growers are receiving in the $10,000 per acre range for higher-demand varieties, Mahony said.

The total U.S. crop was valued at $272 million in December, NASS said. The average price per pound was $3.83, up from $3.35 the year before.

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