PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — While other regions saw declining cranberry production in 2023, farmers in Oregon are wrapping up another successful season ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday.
The USDA stated in its September Fruit and Tree Nuts Outlook that the country’s top cranberry growers in the U.S. — Wisconsin, Massachusetts and New Jersey — are all anticipating a smaller cranberry harvest in 2023. Wisconsin, which produces roughly 60% of the cranberries grown in the U.S., is expected to see a 5% decline in production in 2023. Massachusetts accounts for 26% of the U.S. crop and is forecast for a 12% decline since 2022. In Oregon, meanwhile, the USDA projects that cranberry farmers will enjoy a healthy increase of 17.5%.
“Cranberry production is forecast to be up in Oregon, the fourth-largest cranberry producing State, accounting for 6.2% of U.S. production this season,” the USDA stated in its September report. “Despite hot temperatures during summer bloom, the 2023 cranberry crop in Oregon is forecast to be 470,000 barrels, up 17.5% from 2022.”
While numbers are thought to be down in the Northeast and the Midwest, Pacific Coast Fruit Company buyer Jenny Williams told KOIN 6 News that the industry saw a 10% jump in cranberry yields in 2022 thanks to an excellent season that produced especially large fruit. Following a bountiful 2022 harvest, cranberry vines expectedly produced smaller fruits in 2023 as the vines replenished themselves, she said. As a result, the industry is mostly seeing yields fall back to normal levels.
“This year’s yield is pretty good,” Williams said. “Overall sizing is a little on the smaller size. 2022 was an excellent year for the cranberry harvest in terms of yield per acre and overall volume was larger than historical average.”
Dennis Bowman, the owner of the Bowman Bogs Cranberry Farm in Bandon, told KOIN 6 News that local cranberry farmers saw another year of good prices reaching roughly 50 cents per pound. The price is a healthy improvement compared to the 2010s, he said, when local farmers were selling cranberries for 30 cents per pound.
The decade-long slump in price, Bowman said, was sparked by a massive increase in cranberry farms in the Canadian province of Quebec. Thanks to new varieties of cranberries produced by Rutgers University, he said, Quebec began producing significantly higher yields in a shorter amount of time.
“Quebec put in these super vines, instead of getting 30,000 pounds to the acre, they’re getting 50,000 pounds,” Bowman said. “We just have to grow ’em 90 days longer and get less.”
Bowman said that 25 percent of Oregon’s cranberry farmers went out of business in 11 years in response to Quebec’s effect on the market. While Canada is still the largest source of fresh and processed cranberry imports to the U.S. market, late seasonal frosts caused issues in Quebec, improving prices for U.S. farmers in 2023.
“Increases in Canadian production, especially in the province of Quebec, have boosted competition and global cranberry supply,” the USDA’s report states. “This increase in supply has contributed to lower domestic prices. In 2023, late season frosts in Canada led to bud quality issues and decreased production. With production expected to decrease in Canada and the United States this year, cranberry growers are likely to receive higher prices year-over-year.”
While farmers are seeing sustainable prices, Williams said that shoppers shouldn’t expect rising cranberry prices at the grocery store this Thanksgiving.
“Retailers and growers tend to keep that pricing as stable as possible,” she said. “Cranberries have a history. Growers and retailers are quite aggressive in being able to hold that pricing because it’s such a Thanksgiving staple.”