The USDA has recently released the results of their pre-harvest production survey for the Pacific Northwest region with the 2016 crop estimate coming in at 91.8 million lbs on an all-time record of 50,883 acres. This estimate is an increase of 13 million lbs (17%) over last year’s volume of 78.8 million lbs. Furthermore, when looking under the hood it appears the high alpha variety volume will drop by about 5 – 6% due to its continued slide in acreage while aroma hops could increase by about 30%, or nearly 16 million lbs over last year.
The projected increase in the US volume comes as a direct result of the acreage expansion of 7,250 new acres planted for 2016 crop (17%) but is also reflective of the solid crop that has developed out in the fields. Favorable weather conditions have prevailed in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho throughout the critical stages of the growing season and we have not experienced the prolonged heat waves and record temperatures of last season. With exception of warmer spring temperatures that caused some early runoff of the snowpack, water supply in the Yakima Valley this season has been adequate for irrigating the crop and without any rationing. Essentially the growing conditions have been nearly optimal and as a result it appears we have an excellent crop in the works which should bring in average to above average yields overall. As the industry saying goes, a short crop gets shorter and a big crop gets bigger. With the favorable signs as we go into the harvest period, it is quite possible that the crop will exceed the 91.8M lb USDA estimate for the Pacific Northwest region.
The 7,250 acres of baby hops are essentially all aroma varieties and overall have developed quite nicely. And mature aroma hops generally look average to above average, although some inconsistency once again exists with Centennial which was hit with some early bloom. Cascade and Cluster also show some signs of inconsistent yields but overall should come in at about average. Yields of several varieties should be a strong average such as Citra®, Chinook, and HBC 366 (formerly Equinox®) while Mosaic® growth in particular looks to be exceptional this year.
On the alpha variety side, CTZ’s generally were slow to get going this season and continued to lag by mid-summer but appear to have caught up to normal development as we near the harvest period.
The only concern with the crop at this late point of the season is some powdery mildew that is beginning to show in the Yakima Valley growing areas. However, on the positive side the weather forecast for at least the early portion of harvest looks favorable with normal temperatures. The crop should finish nicely under these conditions and with full cone development for most varieties.
Consistent with the US crop development, Germany also has experienced favorable growing conditions this season and is on track for an average to above average crop. While the total production volume likely will remain below the projected US level, the German crop should be significantly larger than the 2015 crop which was hit by severe drought conditions that dropped yields by nearly 30%.
The impact of projected large crops for the two leading countries will remain to be seen until we have a better view of the final harvest figures this fall. In the meantime it will become increasingly important to have good lines of communication between brewers and suppliers as we assess the supply and demand picture in the months ahead.
To all our growers, we wish you a safe and successful 2016 crop harvest!