Farmers hopping mad at harvests |

Farmers hopping mad at harvests

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Dušan Kütner

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Poor hop crops mean growing demand from North American breweries can’t be met

If only they could improve their crop yields, Czech hop growers would stand to make a small fortune. The microbreweries boom, seen both in this country and across North America, would take care of that. But the hop exporters have so far missed out, with their harvests proving insufficient during years of late.

Hop growers are thus awaiting the results of this year’s harvests with added tension. “If the harvests are abundant then the level of contracted volumes will surely climb. We estimate that it would be possible for the American market to over two or three years absorb so many hops that it would lift the Czech export volume by around 100 percent,” said Pavel
Šponer, commercial director of largest Czech hop exporter Bohemia Hop.

The heightened interest in world-famous Czech hops was clear to those hop growers who attended the recent Craft Breweries Conference in Philadelphia, now a regular date on the calendar for microbreweries. “In terms of our hops, we’ve heaps of newly interested parties in the craft breweries segment of the US and also in Canada, including some of the biggest in the top 10 and top 20,” added Šponer.

But, observed Šponer, the forecast output capacity of Czech hop growing has been pre-sold for the next several years. That is the case even though the Czech Republic is only the third biggest hop cultivator in the world, behind Germany
and the US. Czech hop farmers have experienced weak harvests during three of the past four years. “We’ll hold on to the new contacts. But unfortunately we’ll only be closing new trades with the new harvests if we see above average crop yields,” Šponer said.

Given the growing demand, hop growers are endeavouring to expand the amount of land given over to hop cultivation.
A decline that set in during the nineties saw the land area fall to a record low of 4,319 hectares in 2013. Since then here has been a gradual improvement. Last year, the area was recorded at 4,783 hectares, the peak figure of the last six years. Hop cultivators are targeting more than 5,000 hectares within a few years.

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