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US: Cranberry prices up for growers in 2011

South Coast cranberry growers are hopeful they will receive more for their crop this year in an economy where, for the past few years, growers have barely made enough to cover their costs to produce the crop. Growers are expecting or have already received a range of 15 to 35 cents per pound. Last year, the average was around 15 cents per pound. Growers are winding down the harvest and are usually done by Thanksgiving, according to Larry Frakes, receiving stations manager with Ocean Spray, a co-op that is the nation’s largest cranberry producer. In a co-op, growers own the brand and earn a return per barrel on the proceeds. Some growers who sell fresh fruit will harvest through December while there is still a market for the product.

Frakes said Ocean Spray will process approximately 138,000 barrels this year, up from 125,000 barrels last year. A barrel is 100 pounds of cranberries. Ocean Spray has about 74 grower contracts in Oregon growing on 1,100 acres, all of them along the South Coast. Ocean Spray is not the only game in town, however. About half of the South Coast’s growers are considered independent and sell their berries on the open market, and 29 growers belong to a new company, the Oregon Coast Growers Co-op, which formed three years ago after many of its members left Ocean Spray over prices and politics. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Oregon’s crop was forecast to be up from last year’s 290,000 barrels harvested, but the actual yield is turning out to be lower than last year, according to Dan Boyle, general manager for OCGC. That number is significantly lower than 2009, when 430,000 barrels were harvested.

Dave Haueter, who owns 14 acres and takes care of another 10 at the end of Seven Mile Road, said his crop is about the same as last year. “The younger fields are up and the more mature fields are down,” said Haueter, who is a member of the OCGC. Haueter, who’s been in the business for 12 years, said the price is “creeping its way back up.” The cranberry industry along the South Coast has seen a wide price differential over the years, and has ranged from a high of about $1.50 cents per pound to a low of around 5 cents a pound. The Haueters had a profitable year about four years ago, right before the economy crashed, Haueter said. Ocean Spray growers said this year that growers in the “A-pool,” mostly longtime growers, are receiving 30 cents per pound, while those in their “B-pool” will get about 15 cents per pound. Dave Haueter said the A-pool is sold to make Ocean Spray products, including juice, dried cranberries, sauce and other products, and the B-pool fruit is sold on the commodity market, as is the crop from independent growers.

Frakes said Ocean Spray freezes its berries at a plant in Eugene, and that crop is sold throughout the year for the company’s products. Bandon’s berries are especially prized for juice because of their bright red color. While some growers receive payment on delivery, others are paid every few months as the crop is sold. Boyle said the juice concentrate price is up from last year, which is a good indicator that growers will make more this year. Ty Vincent, whose family was with Ocean Spray for 40 years, is now a member of OCGC. The Vincent family has 30 acres on Croft Lake Lane. Vincent said his crop is about the same as last year, but he knows of growers whose bogs produced more this year. Pollination was a big factor, Vincent said. “We didn’t have a spring, so we didn’t get the pollination at the time we needed,” he said.

Vincent explained that the if the buds that the cranberry vines produce aren’t pollinated right away they die and rot. Heavy rains in mid-May prevented some of the buds from getting pollinated, though some growers in some areas had no problems. “There are many micro-climates along the South Coast,” Vincent explained. “We did get nice weather later, but it was too late. Timing is important.” Vincent said he feels optimistic about this year’s harvest. “The crop was OK and the prices are coming up, so that’s a good trend,” he said.


Source: bandonwesternworld.com

Publication date: 11/24/2011


 


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