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Second largest cranberry harvest expected despite decrease in production

by Joel Gebet | September 03, 2009
If the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Agricultural Statistics Service forecast for the 2009 cranberry crop holds true, it would be the second largest cranberry harvest on record.

The USDA figures, released in mid-August, predict 7.09 million barrels (each barrel weighs 100 pounds), down 10 percent from 2008. The forecast was for yields to be down in Massachusetts and Wisconsin but up in New Jersey, Oregon and Washington state.

David Farrimond, executive director of the Cranberry Marketing Committee, told The Produce News Aug. 26 that he believed "the crop is going to be there," and he estimated that there would be approximately 300,000 barrels of fresh cranberries nationwide.

"The problem, from what I understand, is in quality due to the adverse weather we've had [in Massachusetts] and Wisconsin, but nobody's real sure at the moment," Mr. Farrimond said. "Though 300,000 is about the norm, that may end up being a little less if they get into a situation where the quality is not there."

Mr. Farrimond added that about 950,000 barrels are expected from the Canadian provinces of British Columbia, Nova Scotia and Quebec. He said that Ocean Spray was in the process of preparing bogs in New Brunswick. "We are looking at Chile as well eventually," he said. "They are doing dried sweetened cranberries now down there, and they harvested in February, March and April. Their crop is down this year, but they are putting in additional acreage down there as well."

He said, "We're seeing about 25 percent of our total crop going overseas now, which has really gone up over the last few years. And there's more and more interest in fresh fruit overseas as well."

The NASS production forecast for Wisconsin, the largest producer of cranberries in the United States, is 4 million barrels, down 11 percent from 2008, "but if realized, would be the second largest production level on record for Wisconsin."

USDA found that "most of the [state's] bogs are recovering from last year's record production. In addition, a late spring and cool summer temperatures decreased berry size. Minimal frost and hail damage were reported. Bloom and pollination varied throughout the growing regions."

A press release by The Wisconsin State Cranberry Growers Association said that "based on that projection and with cooperation from Mother Nature during the next four to six weeks & Wisconsin will be the top cranberry- producing state for the 15th consecutive year."

"Wisconsin growers are pleased with the outlook for this year's harvest," Tom Lochner, executive director of WSCGA, said in the release. "This is good news for a leading Wisconsin industry that continues to grow. Our crop -- just like others around Wisconsin -- depends on Mother Nature. We've been fortunate to have weather conditions that help cranberry growth, and with the ability to irrigate our crop, we've been able to manage through drought conditions."

The release stated, "In 2008, the industry announced efforts to increase production of cranberries in the state to help meet demand and bring more jobs and economic activity to Wisconsin. In the first year of that expansion effort, approximately 1,500 acres of new marshes have been planted or are being planted. Those new marshes will bear fruit in three to five years."

Mr. Lochner told The Produce News Aug. 27 that "in general, Wisconsin is consistent with the national numbers on fresh fruit: About 5 percent of the crop goes as fresh fruit. I'm hearing, in general, that the crop looks good. I was at a meeting with a couple of fresh fruit growers this morning, and in passing, they mentioned that things were looking good so far. We need some heat to bring some size to the fruit, and hopefully we'll get some color as we move into September."

He predicted, "We should start seeing some harvesting, depending on color, in the last two weeks of September. It's early, and though we have a long way to go, I don't see a lot of disease problems and the crops are looking pretty good."

The NASS's Massachusetts cranberry forecast is 1.9 million barrels, down 20 percent from 2008. According to the USDA, "Cooler temperatures and above- average rainfall during the growing season reduced pollination, which had a negative impact on yields. Frosts in the late spring months damaged some of the bogs. Winter sanding on many of the bogs also contributed to decreased production."

"All in all, really we're looking probably at an average crop for Massachusetts. There still is a good crop even with the prediction of 1.9 million barrels, which is really where we've been with good crops in that range," Jeffrey LaFleur, executive director of the Cape Cod Cranberry Growers' Association, told The Produce News Aug. 24. "Last year was certainly abnormal in the sense that it was a huge, record crop."

He added, "Speaking of the varieties that are specifically used for fresh fruit here in Massachusetts, they look as though they have a good, strong crop on them." He noted that his organization represents about 325 growers. "Certainly we are still a ways away from harvesting [and] we've had a really tough growing season, but things are shaping up to be a decent year."

The NASS report said, "New Jersey expects a crop of 540,000 barrels, up 5 percent from 2008. Minimal frost damage and adequate rainfall promoted the increased production. No other significant adverse weather conditions were reported by New Jersey growers."

Stephen V. Lee IV of Lee Bros. Inc. and the president of the American Cranberry Growers Association told The Produce News, "Things are real strong with the New Jersey crop. The fresh numbers are about 10,000 barrels or less in New Jersey."

The Oregon cranberry forecast is 490,000 barrels, up 23 percent from last year. "Excellent growing weather and pollination enhanced production levels, despite some pest-related and frost damage reported by the growers," the report said. "Some newly renovated bogs will be harvested this year, further increasing production,

The Washington crop is forecast at 155,000 barrels, a 42 percent jump from last year.

"Warm temperatures and good pollination aided this year's cranberry crop," the report said. "Renovation of previously abandoned bogs is continuing, and growers expect to begin harvest from the recently renovated bogs next year."

(For more on cranberries, see the Sept. 7, 2009, issue of The Produce News.)