Wisconsin's cranberry growers have predicted a record year for the crop, which would put the state at the top of national production.
Farmers in Wisconsin expect to produce 5 million barrels of cranberries this year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agriculture Statistical Services. That’s up from 4.9 million barrels last year, and makes up the majority of the 8.4 million barrels expected nationwide this year.
However, nature’s abundance could present a problem for the industry, which already has an oversupply of the tart fruit.
“Our growers do a great job and we have much pride in our crop, but today’s news is bittersweet as our industry continues to work its way out of an oversupply,” said Tom Lochner, executive director of the Wisconsin State Cranberry Growers Association.
While production rises, demand for cranberry juice has remained flat. So the industry is working to market cranberry products internationally to increase demand. Total international demand has risen by about 6 percent this year, driven by Asian markets, according to the U.S. Cranberry Marketing Committee. At the same time, domestic cranberry sales increased 8 percent as a result of government subsidies.
“We are cautiously optimistic that we will see continued upticks in world demand that will start to edge us toward a better balanced marketplace for the berries,” Lochner said. “Cranberries are a great tasting and healthy part of any diet, including many foods gaining in popularity such as smoothies and quinoa. We just have a ways to go and will keep working hard.”
Wisconsin cranberry growers will begin harvesting this year’s crop in late September, and continue through most of October to support the Thanksgiving rush.
“The oversupply is quite a challenge for all states that grow cranberries but especially here in Wisconsin where more than half of the world’s supply is grown,” Lochner said.