2017 Harvest info
New Zealand Hops Ltd
Crop Report and Industry Update April 2017
The New Zealand Hop Industry production volume for 2017 totalled 760,529 kilograms including 20,705 kilograms as certified organics with the mix of cultivars grown comprising seventeen unique New Zealand varieties as well as six northern types (Table #1). Harvesting commenced under blue skies in mid-February amidst Indian summer conditions with early varieties such as Pacifica and Taiheke being the first bales received into store.
For reasons unknown, which is often the case when it comes to growing hops, plant behaviour varied considerably during picking this season requiring growers to respond quickly to ensure all varieties were picked at peak maturity. There were instances where varieties were maturing outside of their usual harvest window which can create operational challenges given that gardens are designed and laid out to achieve a staged picking order. Putting this aside, the harvest ran generally to plan and the weather conditions were mostly ideal with minor rain fall occurring in mid-March creating only minimal impact on harvest operations.
The growing season itself was far from optimum being strongly influenced by the La Niña condition’s which brought about an extremely wet spring and cool summer. Prolonged periods of low pressure persisted throughout the summer which also brought with it cold westerly winds with strong gusts which damaged plantings in most areas and impacted lateral development significantly across the district. These unfavourable conditions and severe wind events caused slow growth and breakages, creating very open gardens which developed columnar plants with only light burr with grower predictions mid-summer of a dire outcome for the crop. Fortunately toward the end of summer and with the approach of autumn the wind abated and with improved warmer conditions the plants responded by filling out marginally and displaying a semblance of a crop. Harvest proceeded quickly and without incident with most growers finished picking prior to the start of April with the resulting crop weighing in below production estimates in all but a few varieties. When completed a total 6,217 bales (a decrease of 188 bales on 2016) were received into New Zealand Hops Limited cold storage and processing facility in Appleby.
Yield / Alpha Performance & Quality
Yield performance in all but a few varieties was below average and attributable to the unfavourable weather conditions. In general terms it’s not possible to say that any single weather event caused all the crop impacts on the affected varieties, however it’s mostly agreed that hop plants already stymied by wet ground and cool conditions will suffer on performance in the face of unrelenting gale force wind.
A positive outcome on harvesting a light crop comes in the form of improved picking efficiencies removing some pressure from the process. The effect of this is seen in the overall quality of the crop, witnessed both during conditioning on the kiln floors and through the grading and selection of the hops in bale.
The varieties that performed well despite the conditions were Motueka, Wai-iti, Taiheke, Kohatu and Southern Cross. The Nelson Sauvin variety did not fare well in the windy conditions suffering from lateral breakages and diminished cone development while the Riwaka variety also performed well below average having been severely impacted by several weather variables during the growing season.
The season produced another year with the average alpha acid content above 10. 0 % and, as was the case last year, some varieties were more than 1 % higher than long term averages. It’s not possible to say with any certainty why alpha acid levels increase or decrease seasonally. Some areas of study suggest that favourable conditions in the late spring and early summer play a role in setting up plant chemistry however this certainly could not have been the case in the 2017 growing season.
Hop varieties can all behave and all respond quite differently to conditions in any given season, Motueka is an example of how an outlier can fare well in fairly adverse conditions as this year it not only exhibited good yield performance but also above average alpha acid levels.
Main Harvest Points:
The 2017 harvest was completed by our 18 grower / shareholders supplying their hops through the cooperatively owned company of New Zealand Hops Limited.
Cultivation continues to be dominated by designated aroma/flavour varieties at 371 Hectares while alpha variety designated production has increased slightly to 71 Hectares. An overall total of 442 Hectares was harvested, an increase of 30 hectares from the 2016 harvest (412 Ha)
Total volume harvested was 760,529 kilograms which is a decrease of 33,488 kilograms on the 2016 harvest (794,017 kilograms). Aroma / Flavour designated hops accounted for 620,500 kilograms with alpha designated varieties at 140, 029 kilograms.
The average alpha acid was 10.1 % with the highest commercial variety Moutere (formerly known as “Brooklyn”) at 18.7 % and the lowest being Wai-iti at 4.2 %. Average bale moistures were 9.49 % and Hop Storage Index (HSI) was an average of 0.221 across all bales and varieties delivered.
Under New Zealand Hops Limited integrated pest management system, hops will be available as certified “spray free” having been produced without the use of pesticides.
Market & Outlook
The 2017 crop was 95 % sold prior to harvest with a post-harvest view that the major portion of any resulting surplus should be sold prior to the 2018 harvest.
Only minor spot availability has arisen in a small number of varieties from the 2017 harvest after the balancing of contracts was concluded. Shortfalls in certain varieties have required some volume adjustments to contracts while other gaps in supply capability have been filled by redirecting demand volumes and balancing between contract holders.
The current international market demand for New Zealand Hops and specialty hops in general continues, however market signals indicate that overall beer volume remains static while the rapid growth in recent years of the craft brewing segment appears to be slowing.
New Zealand Hops’ grower investment is set to continue with new developments for expanded plantings moving forward with considerable increases also in new harvesting infrastructure. Investment in post-harvest storage and process capability is also increasing as the co-operative develops to support its long term growth strategy.
Research will continue to be a major focus of the company through our partnership with New Zealand Plant and Food Research. Developing unique hop varieties remains at the forefront of the programme and two promising cultivars are in commercial growing plots after having been selected through research brewing trials
Table # 1 Harvest Volumes by Variety
|New Zealand Varieties||Quantity||Northern Varieties||Quantity|
|Southern Cross||24,815||Total Northern Varieties||5,877|
|*formerly Brooklyn now Moutere||Rakau||1,785|
|Total NZ Varieties||733,947||Wai-iti||428|
Written by: Doug Donelan CEO April 2017
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