Record production surprises growers; 'we call it the miracle harvest'

By MITCH LIES

Capital Press

Wet weather and delayed ripening apparently didn't slow Oregon's 2011 winegrape production.

According to a USDA report released April 16, the production grew 33 percent in 2011 to a record high 41,500 tons.

The previous record, established in 2009, was 40,200 tons, according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service.

Total production was just 31,200 tons in 2010.

The record was a surprise to some, given that many growers dropped fruit throughout the season to ensure remaining fruit would ripen, as crops were late in developing.

"I guess that's why we call it the miracle harvest," said Charles Humble, a spokesman for the Oregon Winegrowers Association.

"It was a real roller coaster, and the early perception was that it wasn't going to be a large crop," Humble said.

Oregon winegrape production has climbed relatively steadily since NASS began the report in 1981. In 1986, for example, growers harvested just 4,863 tons. Growers harvested 18,600 tons in 2000.

Planted acreage, meanwhile, soared in recent years, increasing from 15,600 acres in 2006 to 20,500 acres in 2010.

The April 16 report shows harvested acres increased from 16,900 in 2010 to 17,500 in 2011, even though planted acreage dropped from 20,500 to 20,400.

Also every region showed an increase in tonnage except the Columbia River, where tonnage dropped from 3,655 tons in 2010 to 3,304 tons in 2011.

The Rogue Valley showed the largest increase, going from 3,522 tons in 2010 to 6,771 tons in 2011.

The federal statistics service did not conduct a 2011 winery survey due to funding constraints.

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