After more than a month of cutting, picking, drying, pressing, pelletizing and packaging, the numbers are in. Hop Products Australia (HPA) harvested 631 hectares across its three farms in 2020, which resulted in a production volume of 1,554 metric tonnes. This was a 42 hectare (7.1%), 81 metric tonne (5.5%) increase year-on-year across six proprietary varieties. Harvest commenced at the start of March and was completed by early April.
All three HPA farms — Bushy Park Estates, Rostrevor Hop Gardens and Buffalo River Valley — endured a dry, cold and windy spring. This slightly delayed growth and lateral development in some of the more exposed gardens. Fortunately, the conditions improved towards the tail end of the growing season, which helped the crop mature well in the lead up to harvest.
Unfortunately, some of the highest January temperatures on record resulted in widespread bushfires across Victoria. We are very grateful that our people, property and crop escaped unscathed. Some of our friends and neighbors were not so lucky.
Our entire team was remarkably resilient in the face of some very challenging conditions. Following the threat of bushfires, they were tested by the rapidly evolving situation surrounding COVID-19. Fortunately, agriculture is categorized as essential, which meant it was more or less business as usual. We did, however, introduce a range of new procedures
to prioritize the health of our employees and ensure our farms remained virus free and fully operational. We also made it through the period without any real safety concerns.
Quality was not impacted by the conditions. There appears to be no precedent for bushfire smoke effecting hop aroma or flavor in beer, and the alpha acids and essential oils are within the normal range across all varieties. This means you can expect great flavors that will have a real impact in beer.
Yields a ‘mixed bag’
The 5.5% increase in overall production volume will allow us to meet all contractual obligations. Yield was a bit of a mixed bag this year. There were some individual performances that exceeded expectations, including notable increases in Galaxy™ and Topaz™ as well as a bumper crop of HPA-016 in its first year of commercialization. We’re particularly looking forward to placing this in the hands of as many brewers as possible in the coming years.
The rest of the varieties were down, but stayed within the normal range of variation. This was due to the conditions during the growing season rather than reductions in acreage.
Despite an increase in hectares planted and production volume, the highly contracted position of our 2020 crop means that a limited amount of hops will be available in the short-term. We are continuing to move forward with our Buffalo River Valley expansion to improve supply surety and increase varietal diversity.
We have completed phase one of the $35 million expansion that aims to increase our total production volume to 2,400 metric tonnes by 2024. This involved planting 150 new hectares and construction of the new processing facility, which includes 1 Daunhauer picker and 6 kiln floors. We will now move on to phase two which will include planting an additional 150
hectares, installation of a second Daunhauer picker and another 6 kiln floors over the next 3 years. This is a continuation of HPA’s long-term strategy to grow alongside our customers and support their successes.