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US: Sales of cranberries increase overseas

The Cranberry Marketing Committee began promoting the product outside the country in earnest in 1999, said Michael Rucier, the committee's export promotion manager. Foreign sales were 14 percent of the market that year, at nearly 898,000 barrels. That increased to 27 percent of the market last year, with more than 1.67 million barrels shipped overseas.

The committee was created in 1962 to maintain a balance between supply and demand in the U.S. cranberry industry. It was amended in 1992 to allow the committee to promote the sale of and use of cranberries and cranberry products.

"The bottom fell out of the market" in 1999, and prices plummeted, Rucier said. "We had a lot of inventory and no place to sell it."

Cranberry sales have grown substantially since then, especially in the United Kingdom, Germany, Australia, France, South Korea, Mexico, Japan, the Netherlands, Spain, Austria and Switzerland, he said.

The largest producer, Ocean Spray Cranberries Inc., has seen its foreign business grow by double-digit percentages each year for more than a decade, reaching between $300 million and $400 million annually in 80 different countries, CEO Randy Papadellis said.

Cranberries aren't found in just beverages and Thanksgiving side dishes. Papadellis said Ocean Spray has cranberries in more than 1,000 products.

Some of the newest items include ice cream topping, crackers, pancake mix, soap and lotions, said Tom Lochner, executive director of the Wisconsin State Cranberry Growers Association.

Wisconsin, the nation's top cranberry-producing state, expects to harvest 3.9 million barrels of the tart fruit this year, more than half the crop produced nationwide. That's followed by Massachusetts at 1.8 million barrels, New Jersey at 520,000 barrels, Oregon at 500,000 and Washington state at 180,000.

The cranberry is one of only three fruits native to North America, along with blueberries and concord grapes.

Generic marketing of cranberries overseas is financed primarily through assessments collected from growers by the Cranberry Marketing Committee on each barrel produced and through grants provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Rucier said.

That spending has increased from nearly $275,000 in 1999 to more than $1.6 million this year, he said.

Individual companies also promote their own brands. Ocean Spray, which provides 70 percent of the world's cranberries, spends $45 million a year on television advertising alone, with about one-third of that going overseas, Papadellis said.

In August, the USDA's National Agriculture Statistics Service forecast that the nation's 2007 cranberry crop would be 6.9 million barrels, just 1,000 more than last year, but up 11 percent from 2005.

That compares with nearly 3.4 million barrels in 1990, and more than 5.7 million in 2000, the agency said.

"While this year's harvest remains large," the USDA's Economic Research Service said late last month, "growing demand for U.S. cranberries in foreign markets, along with tight inventory supplies, will likely keep the market strong for U.S. cranberries in 2007-2008."

Jill Amundson, a cranberry grower in Babcock in central Wisconsin, said it does not matter to her where her crop is sold, as long as it is sold.

"Anything that sells our fruit is a good thing," she said.


Publication date: 11/9/2007


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