Hop stocks

Hop harvest at Wenas Hop Co., Selah, Wash., last year. Industry production continues to find a good balance with demand.

YAKIMA, Wash. — A 2% increase in inventory of U.S. hops since last September shows continued reasonable balance between supply and demand despite a continuing but slowing acreage increase in recent years, a leading producer says.

Crop production in 2018 increased just 1% over 2017, “so a 2% increase in hop stocks 12 months later is relatively in line with the production increase,” says Pete Mahony, vice president of supply chain and purchasing for John I. Haas Inc. in Yakima. Haas is a leader in production, processing and research and development of hops.

USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service released its Sept. 1 hop stock report on Sept. 18 showing hop inventory by growers, dealers and brewers at 115 million pounds, up 2% from the 113 million-pound inventory a year earlier.

Stocks held at dealer and grower locations totaled 78 million pounds and brewers held 37 million pounds.

The previous two Sept. 1 hop stock reports showed annual increases of about 15%, which was expected as production in those years increased at nearly the same rate, Mahony said.

In June, USDA NASS estimated 57,339 acres of hops for 2019, up 4% from the record high of 55,035 in 2018. Of that, 72% is in Washington, 15% in Idaho and 13% in Oregon.

For many years, hop growth has been fueled by the rapid increase of craft breweries, but their rate of growth is now slowing.

“While we’ve certainly seen some slowdown in the U.S. craft industry from the double-digit growth rates of only a few years ago, the industry still continues to grow although at a more moderate and hopefully sustainable rate,” Mahony said.

A positive sign is strong growth in the long tail of craft, which are the smaller, more local craft brewers, he said. Long tail growth has pushed the total U.S. brewery count beyond 7,000, he said.

Another positive sign is continued craft growth in overseas markets, which need U.S. hops to replicate popular beer styles of the U.S., Mahony said.

“So as the market conditions have been evolving and changing recently, it is reassuring to see how well the hop industry has been able to keep supply reasonably in balance with demand over the past year, as is evident in a hop stock increase of only 2%,” he said.

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