Cranberry prospects may be brightest in Oregon

09/16/2009 03:33:15 PM
Andy Nelson

The Oregon fresh cranberry crop likely will dodge some of the weather-related problems plaguing crops in Massachusetts and Wisconsin.

With the fresh harvest set to begin the week of Sept. 21 in the Beaver State, color and sugar levels look good and volumes are ample, said Ben Johnson, growers agent for Portland, Ore.-based Bridges Produce.

“The general consensus is it’s a very nice looking crop, not huge but a little bigger than the five-year average,” he said. “People don’t often think of the brix level of cranberries, but it’s a sign of maturity. It helps give fruit a richer flavor.”

About 498,000 barrels are expected out of Oregon this year, said David Farrimond, general manager of the Wareham, Mass.-based Cranberry Marketing Committee. That’s down from 508,000 in 2008 and 522,000 in 2007, but more in line with typical Oregon volumes, he said.

While Farrimond said Massachusetts and Wisconsin have contended with excessive rains this season, which could affect color and sizing, Oregon growers won’t likely face those problems.

Volumes out of the state will likely rise in coming years, as bogs are renovated and new acreage comes into production, Farrimond said. Higher-yielding varieties also could boost production, he said.

While the majority of the Oregon crop still ships to processing markets, the fresh market is growing, Johnson said. But tighter fresh markets nationwide could boost prices this season, he said.

For an industry that until about 2000 didn’t produce any fresh-market cranberries, Oregon has “built up a fairly good fresh market,” Farrimond said.

One advantage of Oregon, Johnson said, is it doesn’t have the freeze concerns other regions have.

“There’s no rush to harvest too early,” he said. “We can really let them hang and get mature.”

Farrimond said it’s not unusual for Oregon growers to harvest into November.



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