USDA Predicts Solid Year for Cranberries, Growers Remain Concerned About Drought

COURTESY OF THE CAPE COD CRANBERRY GROWERS ASSOCIATION

COURTESY OF THE CAPE COD CRANBERRY GROWERS ASSOCIATION

CARVER – Massachusetts is expected to yield another solid cranberry crop this year, according to the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service.

The service is predicting a crop of 2.07 million barrels, which would be down about 5 percent from last year. Each barrel is equal to about 100 pounds.

Cape Cod Cranberry Growers Association Executive Director Brian Wick says even with the expected drop in the production for last year the crop would still be strong.

“Last year was one of the biggest crops the state has ever had,” Wick said. “So being down a little bit from last year is not necessarily a bad thing.”

The 2015 cranberry crop was the second highest in the state’s history.

Massachusetts growers are concerned the current drought could affect this year’s crop.

“There’s really nothing that satisfies [cranberries like] a natural rainfall and that really seems to be what helps berries size to their full potential,” Wick said. “There’s still time for that and growers remain optimistic they will size.”

Bogs are built with in-ground irrigation systems which are not a sufficient substitute for natural rainfall.

The entire U.S. cranberry crop is projected to be 8.59 million barrels.

Massachusetts accounts for approximately 22 percent of the country’s cranberry crop, which ranks second behind Wisconsin. The Badger State yield about 60 percent of the cranberries in the U.S.

Quebec is another cranberry grower on the rise and is forecasted to out produce Massachusetts this year for the second time.

“We’re slipping a bit in terms of the overall rankings and it’s certainly a concern,” Wick said. “Not so much with how much we produce, but how well we can compete with those regions which are higher yielding, lower cost regions.”

A state cranberry revitalization task force was formed and met over the winter and spring months to come up with ideas and recommendations to help the industry.

“Those recommendations now have been created in the form of a final report and we are working with the state, the Legislature and Department of Agriculture to see if we can get some of these programs in place which will help stabilize the industry and set it up for long-term success,” Wick said.

Wick believes exporting the fruit overseas is critical to the future success of the cranberry industry.

“A big part of that is going to be new products in new markets,” he said. “There’s been a lot of work done by the industry to help penetrate these new markets. China being one in particular.”

Other markets being targeted by the industry are India, South Korea and Turkey.

“Turkey consumers seem to have a preference for red fruit so we think we’ll fit in well there,” he said.

Wick said the industry is also exploring Mexico and South America as markets that are untapped.

“There’s a lot of opportunities out there in the world for the consumption of cranberries,” Wick said. “It just takes time and money to get into those markets and to establish a footprint.”

The cranberry is the largest cash crop in Massachusetts.

By BRIAN MERCHANT, CapeCod.com NewsCenter

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