Cranberry Growers Struggle With Dry Weather, Low Prices

11/16/2013 7:00 AM
By Steve Damon Massachusetts Correspondent

Farmers know the downside of a good crop — low prices. Massachusetts cranberry growers are finding a slightly lower than average crop, but retailers are finding a surplus of berries from a new source: Quebec.

According to Peter Hanlon of P.J. Cranberries in Sandwich, Mass., 2013 has been “Berry good!”

“Actually,” he continues, the farm is “doing OK with a pretty good crop.”

Hanlon sells his berries to farm stands, jam companies and supermarkets. He enjoys delivering his crop to locally owned Big Y supermarkets in western Massachusetts. Many berries are shipped throughout the nation.

Along with producing delicious fruit, the 11-acre P.J. Cranberries also serves as a unique location for wedding receptions.

Jeff LaFleur of Mayflower Cranberries in Plympton, Mass., believes the crop will be down a little from last year due to the lack of significant rain in the last two months. Although “growers are having difficulty getting enough water for harvest dry-picked fresh fruit seems to be in good quality and quantity,” he said.

Mayflower Cranberries and Jeff LaFleur welcome tours and school groups by appointment.

Dawn Gates-Allen, communication manager for the Cape Cod Cranberry Growers Association, shares LaFleur’s water concern.

“We had a wet June, a very hot early July with lots of humidity, then August, again another heat wave with lots of humidity,” she said, adding that September and October were also very dry, “so growers are getting concerned about ample water for frost protection and water harvest.” Final crop reports won’t be available until the end of November.

“I am hearing that the crop is down, however this information is coming from the growers themselves and from various truck drivers hired to ship the cranberry crop to the receiving stations,” Gates-Allen said. “Pricing is also declining due to the supply and demand situation here in the U.S.”

Dick Ward of Ward Bog in Carver, Mass., said he’s been told “Quebec is having another terrific year. They’re shipping their berries to us and the prices keep falling.” Ward is selling his berries wholesale for $1 per pound.

“If this trend continues,” added Judy Ward, Dick Ward’s wife and business partner, “many of these bogs will be sold to developers.”

According to the USDA’s Feb. 8, 2013 Crop Production Report, cranberry production in Massachusetts totaled 2.12 million barrels in 2012, down 8 percent from the previous year.

Although wholesale prices are going down, retailers are selling for much higher prices. One food co-op is selling cranberries for $4.99 a pound, while another had the price at $4.99 per pint container. These berries are grown organically, while berries at the Ward farm are grown conventionally.

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