Do you like apples? Well then you’re the reason that there’s a shortage of hops! Ok, so that’s not exactly true, but farmers in Yakima, Seattle, are finding it hard to employ good help this year, as one ranch reports losing hired hands to more lucrative orchard farming. (Now, how do you like dem apples?) The Seattle Times recounted the story of the Loftus Ranches, which increased their hops acreage this year, but can’t keep hands picking with competition from orchards offering higher wages.
From the report:
Last September, apple growers said they were short about 4,000 workers in a survey by the state Employment Security Department. The demand is expected to be even higher this year … Washington hop growers expect to produce 55.3 million pounds this year, the largest harvest since 2009 at 75 million pounds, according to the USDA.
We’ve talked at length about the challenges that an agricultural product such as hops faces. The industry has seen its fair share of shortages, and as more craft brewers enter the market offering the hoppiest of beers, hop demand is only going up. But it’s going to be limited by how much can be produced. In our hop feature story, Sean McGree, hop specialist with BSG CraftBrewing, foresaw complications:
“Acreage has expanded so quickly that growers now face picking and drying capacity issues. I believe supply will continue to be tight for most varieties in 2014. Growers are searching for new acreage right now as plantings will begin around the first of March.”