A worker uses a rake in cranberry harvest. ( Courtesy Ocean Spray )

U.S. cranberry prospects appear to be improved for 2018 compared with 2017.

Favorable crop conditions were reported in Wisconsin and other growing regions, said Bob Wilson, managing member of Wisconsin Rapids, Wis.-based The Cranberry Network LLC, which markets fruit grown by Tomah, Wis.-based Habelman Bros. Co.

Ocean Spray and Oppy will partner to market fresh cranberries throughout the fall and holiday period, said Karin Gardner, director of corporate communications for The Oppenheimer Group.

She said shipping of conventional berries will start the week of Sept. 24 from bogs in Massachusetts, Wisconsin, Quebec, Washington, and British Columbia. Organics produced in Quebec will follow in mid-October.

In New Jersey, Bob Von Rohr, marketing and customer relations manager for Sunny Valley International Inc., Glassboro, N.J., said prospects were good.

“So far, it looks like a very, very good crop,” he said. “Maybe a little bit better than last year.”

 

Wisconsin report

“It has been a decent growing season with sufficient water, sufficient heat units throughout the season,” Wilson said. “I hear reports that fruit is sizing nicely and starting to color.”

Fresh cranberry packing and shipping were expected to start the week of Sept. 17 in Wisconsin for the Cranberry Network LLC.

Wilson said the 2017 crop was down from normal. This year will be better, he said.

“We won’t have a bumper crop, but it will in all likelihood recover very nicely over last year,” he said.

The harvest timing is very consistent with past years, Wilson said.

Because more than 95% of cranberry volume is for processed uses, most of it is harvested in October.

Demand for fresh cranberries typically heats up when temperatures cool, Wilson said.

The good news for cranberry demand in October is Canadian Thanksgiving, which this year is Oct. 8, a month and a half earlier than the U.S. Thanksgiving date of Nov. 22.

“That tends to keep us busy, and shipping to Europe can keep us busy,” Wilson said.

 

Packaging

The 12-ounce poly bag is still the most widely used consumer pack, though Wilson said some marketers use clamshells for organic cranberries and some even have tried clamshells with conventional fruit.

“(More) expensive packaging typically doesn’t seem to carry the day,” he said, although there is some use of the two-pound grab-and-go pouch at the club store level.

 

Ranking the states

Wisconsin remains the clear leader of fresh cranberry shipments, according to shipment statistics from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

While fresh supplies are contributed by Canada, Chile, Mexico, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, Oregon and Washington, Wisconsin shipped by far the most fresh cranberries of any state or country, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

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The USDA reported that Wisconsin accounted for 13.83 million pounds of conventional fruit in 2017, down from 14.2 million pounds in 2016.

Wisconsin shipped about 70,000 pounds of organic fruit in 2017.

  • The second most important fresh cranberry state in 2017 was Massachusetts, which the USDA said shipped 4.21 million pounds, up from 3.84 million pounds in 2016.
  • Washington fresh cranberry shipments in 2017 were 2.2 million pounds, up from 1.87 million pounds in 2016.
  • 2017 U.S. imports of Canadian cranberries, according to the USDA, were 2.67 million pounds.
  • The USDA reported that Michigan fresh shipments of cranberries in 2017 totaled 340,000 pounds, down from 420,000 pounds in 2016.
  • New Jersey fresh shipments in 2017 were 90,000 pounds, down from 170,000 pounds in 2016.
  • Mexico and Chile shipped light volume of fresh cranberries to the U.S. in 2017.
 
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