The cranberry harvest wrapped up the first week of November and across the board the volumes were lower than usual. Patrick Rhodes of Massachusetts cranberry grower Cape Cod Select says: “The Massachusetts volumes were better than they were in Wisconsin and Canada, but they were lower than usual here too. Our company’s volumes were up, and for some other individual growers the volumes were up too, but for most of the industry the volumes were down anywhere from 10 to 20%. The highlight of the season for us was the quality of the product, which was really high, and that always makes everything a bit easier to work with.”
Prices have been rising
The independent market has been seeing a slight rise in pricing for the past three years. Rhodes shares: “Pricing has been low for the past 10 years straight. Even now that the price has been rising for the past three years, the price is still quite low. The rise in pricing can be attributed to lower volumes – which have been lower partly because of a volume regulation that was put into action two years ago, and was in effect for the 2017 and the 2018 seasons. That caused a reduction in the inventory, so the prices rose. Then we had a couple of years that the overall volume was down too, which of course affected the pricing as well.”
Increase in demand from China
Cape Cod Select exports both their fresh and frozen cranberries, and about half of their fresh product is destined for export. “The demand is high and it is kept high because China absorbs a lot of the product. The market there mostly focuses on sweet and dried cranberries (SDCs) and juices, though there has been an increase in the demand for the raw product there too. This is eating up some of the industries’ inventory. In the bigger picture, there really haven’t been any major spikes in demand, but there have been new avenues opening up and that has rediverted some of the product,” Rhodes says.
Shortage of fresh cranberries for Christmas
Cranberries are a staple item for Thanksgiving, which means that the demand spikes in the month of November. “This year, because Thanksgiving was so late in the month, the overall November sales were higher than they have been in past years. We always see a spike but this year the spike lasted through the end of the month because Thanksgiving wasn’t until the 28th of November. That, combined with the overall volumes being down, has caused a general shortage of fresh cranberries..”
“A lot of producers had run out of their fresh cranberries by the beginning of December. Right now, the Christmas demand will look for fresh cranberries but everybody is basically sold out of it. So it’ll be difficult to find fresh cranberries for Christmas. There will be frozen cranberries in supermarkets, though, which is our corner of the market. We have seen a big spike in demand for the frozen cranberries – when fresh cranberries aren’t available, consumers turn to the frozen product,” Rhodes concludes.