Hop acreage continues growth spurt

Northwest growers set crop record

— The market for hops is booming, as evidenced by acres of the crop in the Lower Yakima Valley.

But industry leaders are saying the market is still demanding more.

After less-than ideal growing conditions last year in both the U.S. and in Europe, non-contracted brewers were left wanting a handful of new, highly demanded aroma varieties.

This was despite an increase in overall U.S. production and a 10 percent increase of hops in storage, federal Department of Agriculture officials said.

Now, U.S. hop acreage is in its fifth consecutive year of growth, up another 17 percent in the Pacific Northwest and 18.5 nationally.

With federal officials estimating 13 million additional pounds of hops incoming, this would total a record 91.8 million pounds for Northwest growers who produce more than 96 percent of the U.S. crop.

That represents a 16 percent jump over 2015, officials said.

Last month, the International Hop Growers Convention released a 2016 world hop crop projection of 221.7 million pounds, 15.7 percent higher than 2015 production.

While some are rejoicing at the yet-again large increase and waiting with bated breath for harvest, many in the hop industry are celebrating cautiously.

Officials last month urged caution as further expansion is considered, to avoid surplus production.

That’s especially true with anticipated declines in beer production.

For example, global beer output is expected to decline 2 to 3 percent next year.

Only strong growth in the craft beer segment will offset these losses, officials said.

According to a recent release from Brauwelt International, American craft beer production volume increased 8 percent during the first half of 2016.

“We have seen the downside of this market before due to oversupply,” Hop Growers of America Executive Director Ann George said.

George, who works out of Moxee, added, “While we see a clear need, thanks to long shelf life, cost and long-term commitment of growing hops, we encourage responsible contracting to ensure a stable market in terms of price and availability.”


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