U.S. hops crop increasing amid consumer demand

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Hops field.
Hops. (Farm and Dairy file photo)

MOXEE, Wash. — With high temperatures early in the hop growing season and a restricted amount of water due to a small winter snowpack, there was some apprehension among the brewing community and concerned hop head citizens regarding this year’s harvest.

However, people can breathe a little easier knowing that the U.S. hop crop has exceeded 2014’s by 11 percent, with a final count of 78.8 million pounds harvested in 2015. This is according to the latest Hop Production report, released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, covering the Pacific Northwest.

Increased production

According to the USDA, production increased in Idaho, Oregon and Washington — the three states that produce nearly all of the American hop crop. Yields are up 26 percent, 30 percent, and 6 percent, respectively.

“Considering the challenges our Washington growers faced this year (who produce 75 percent of the U.S. hop crop), and the amount of first year plants in the ground which have a smaller yield, we are pleased with the final count and are looking forward to next year,” said Ann George, executive director of Hop Growers of America.

In addition to overall production numbers, the value of the US hop crop increased significantly as well. The USDA report states the current preliminary value is $345.4 million, a 33 percent jump from the revised 2014 value of $260.6 million.

“While it may be puzzling to see value go up 33 percent while the yield went up only 11 percent, we are not surprised,” said George.

New demand

Aside from a surge in hop usage, there has also been a large shift in demand — and as a result, a large shift in acres — for aroma varieties which nearly always have a lower yield than the high alpha (bittering) hops, but a similar per-acre cost of production.

When you swap out one hop for another ,that requires more land to produce the same amount of hops, the pricing structure has to change, George said.

For more information, visit: www.usahops.org.

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