Wisconsin cranberry harvest expected to swell this year

Industry projects 5.8 million barrels

Commercial cranberries are harvested from bogs like this one.

Last updated on July 2nd, 2019 at 09:20 am

Wisconsin’s cranberry growers are expected to produce 5.8 million barrels of the crop this year, a significant increase over the 4.86 million barrels produced in 2015, according to the latest estimates from Ocean Spray Cranberries Inc., a grower-owned cooperative.

Ocean Spray growers are based in all the cranberry producing regions, which include Massachusetts, New Jersey, Oregon, Washington and Wisconsin.

Wisconsin remains the top cranberry producing state by a longshot, according to the estimates. The next closest is Massachusetts, with 2.1 million barrels projected for 2016. The U.S. is expected to produce a total of 9.1 million barrels of cranberries in 2016. A barrel equates to 100 pounds.

“The biggest reason and the biggest determinate for the crop each year is the growing season and the weather and what Mother Nature provides for us,” said Tom Lochner, executive director of the Wisconsin State Cranberry Growers Association. “2016 has been, I think for all agriculture here in Wisconsin, a great year for growing crops.”

In addition to good ice conditions that protected buds over winter, as well as warm weather and timely rain during the pollination and growth phases, the 2016 increase can be attributed to a smaller-than-average crop in 2015, Lochner said.

“Right now we’re just looking for some cool weather to bring some color onto the fruit,” he said. “That helps improve the quality and we can start getting this year’s crop into the receiving stations and get it harvested.”

The WSCGA expects inventory to stabilize and sales to increase in 2016, which will meet demand without leading to oversupply, Lochner said. Domestic sales are projected to increase 5 percent year-over-year, while sales abroad are expected to increase 5 to 7 percent.

Last year, Wisconsin cranberry growers harvested 20,200 acres, producing 57 percent of the cranberries in the U.S., according to the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection. The state leads the country in the export of prepared and preserved cranberries.

This year’s harvest will begin in mid-September and continue through mid-November, timed to supply U.S. consumers with cranberries for their Thanksgiving feasts.

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Molly Dill, former BizTimes Milwaukee managing editor.

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