Wisconsin cranberry growers are expecting another big year for cranberry production. The recently released U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service projections have an expected harvest of 5.6 million barrels of fruit for 2017.
“We think that the cranberry crop looks really good,” said Jessica Rezin of Cutler Cranberry Co. “We had a record harvest last year, and I don't know if we will hit that record again, but everything seems to be looking really good right now.”
Wisconsin’s 2016 cranberry harvest totals reached approximately 6 million barrels, just over the newest 2017 projections. The recent projections assume good weather through harvest.
Rezin said they have seen relatively good weather throughout the season thus far.
“This spring was a little wet, but overall it has been a pretty good growing season,” Rezin said. “It is a little cool now. We would like to see the temperatures warmer to help us with sizing.”
She said as the nights get cooler, they will see the cranberries start to turn color and ripen. Harvest usually starts in late September and will continue through October.
Wisconsin leads the nation in cranberry production, with the anticipated harvest making up more than half of the 9 million barrels expected this year nationwide.
The Wisconsin cranberry industry supplies thousands of jobs and brings in a total value of nearly $1 billion each year, according to Tom Lochner, executive director of the Wisconsin Cranberry Growers Association.
Lochner said that at the same time, the cranberry industry is looking at ways to help balance the oversupply of cranberries with the demand.
“Wisconsin is a leader in cranberry growing and we are proud of our hardworking growers and their many contributions,” Lochner said. “With the commodity price for cranberries well below the cost of production, many growers in Wisconsin and across the country are experiencing low returns and financial difficulties.”
“As an industry, our supply is quite large right now and the industry is trying to do what they can do to help mediate that and try and get supply and demand back in balance for all growers,” Rezin said. “As long as we can keep working on that, I think that we will be all right.”
To help manage the oversupply issue facing the industry, the Cranberry Marketing Committee recently unanimously approved a motion to set volume regulations for the 2017 and 2018 crops.
“The (volume regulation) on this year’s crop is going to take out 15 percent of the total harvest that comes in to all cranberry handlers. The one for the 2018 crop is a 25 percent producer allotment, so growers will deliver 75 percent of their historical harvest numbers for the past several years,” Rezin said.
“The motion is intended to help stabilize marketing conditions and improve grower returns,” Lochner said. “This short-term solution will help slow the excess supply being built while the industry continues to focus its efforts on the long-term solution of increasing demand.”
The motion must still be approved by the USDA before it is enacted, but Rezin said cranberry operators are operating like they are going to happen.
At the same time, the Cranberry Marketing Committee is working to increase overseas demand for cranberries, including increasing awareness of the health benefits of the fruit. They are also trying to increase year-round consumption of cranberries as 20 percent of cranberries are consumed during the holiday season.
“Growing demand internationally is a big opportunity, and the industry is working hard to market cranberries to new audiences,” Lochner said. “At the same time, domestic consumers are still the largest purchasers of cranberries. We hope that Wisconsinites will show their cranberry pride and help move the needle by finding more ways to incorporate cranberries into their meals year-round.”
Rezin is optimistic that the industry will find balance and continue to be strong for years to come. She looks forward to keeping her family’s nearly century-old cranberry company going for another generation.
“I have two kids and it would be wonderful if one or both of them would be interested in coming back here. We want to keep our business in the family down the road,” Rezin said. “We are here for the long haul, we are not going anywhere.”