Sunday, November 30, 2014

Bumper Crop Hurts Cranberry Growers

 Cranberry Harvest in New Jersey (Wikipedia)
As you pack away the leftover Thanksgiving cranberry sauce (and there is always leftover cranberry sauce), consider the plight of Wisconsin’s cranberry growers.
This state, which grows more cranberries than any other, is awash in the fruit. Two years of record harvests have sent prices plummeting, and growers are in a desperate race to get rid of their own leftovers.
As millions of pounds more than usual sit in storage nationwide, a fog of worry has settled in over the sandy cranberry marshes here that provide a living for nearly 4,000 people. “It’s one of the deepest pits we’ve been in, I’ll tell you,” said Michael Gnewikow, who married into the fourth generation of growers who tend the 190-acre Wetherby Cranberry Company in central Wisconsin....
Only 3 percent of the cranberries grown here and in Massachusetts, New Jersey and the Pacific Northwest are sold as whole, fresh berries, which are in great demand this time of year. The rest are either dried, pressed into juice, canned as sauce or made into pharmaceutical powders. The sweetened dried cranberry, popularized when the grower cooperative Ocean Spray introduced the Craisin as a baking item in the 1990s, is a darling of the snack aisle.
Still, there are too many cranberries. Wisconsin broke a record last fall when it harvested 600 million pounds, more than 60 percent of the national supply. Though the amount dropped a little this year, it was the second-largest harvest since growers began raising cranberries commercially here in the 1830s. For some growers who sell cranberries to processors, a pound that brought in 90 cents in 2008 was worth about 12 cents this year.
 It is not that more land has been turned into cranberry bogs. Growers in the United States and Canada have discovered new varieties and farming techniques that allow them to pull more fruit from each acre. “Everybody’s gotten better at growing the big crops,” said Ray J. Habelman, whose family company in nearby Tomah, Wis., is the nation’s largest producer for the fresh cranberry market. “We just need to get better at selling it.”
That sucks.  I drove through cranberry country in Wisconsin once while I was on vacation.  That was interesting to see.  As for me, my consumption of cranberries has historically been limited to juice, but I will say that Craisins beat raisins hands down. That isn't saying much, though, because I hate raisins.

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