Weather bogs down cranberry production estimate

Massachusetts cranberry growers said recent dry conditions have compounded other weather issues, leading them to lean toward a more conservative estimate for cranberry production this year. (Wicked Local Staff File Photo)

STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE – As a drought expands across Massachusetts, cranberry growers said recent dry conditions have compounded other weather issues, leading them to lean towards a more conservative estimate for cranberry production this year.

The Cape Cod Cranberry Growers’ Association, which represents more than 300 cranberry growers throughout the state, said its leadership thinks the best estimate for Bay State cranberry production in 2020 is the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Cranberry Marketing Committee forecast that anticipates a Massachusetts crop of 2.04 million 100-pound barrels, up just 1% from last year.

“This season has seen its share of challenges for Massachusetts growers,” CCCGA Executive Director Brian Wick said. “The mild winter brought the vines out of dormancy early, followed by a cold spring, hindering plant progression. Numerous frost events between April and early June caused a series of sleepless nights for growers. In late June, the weather excelled for pollination with dry conditions, allowing the bees to do their work. Just when growers noticed a lack of precipitation, periodic July rain events roused the growing fruit. August has brought concern with the continued lack of rain.”

Cranberries are the largest agricultural food commodity produced in Massachusetts, and the annual crop value tends to be just greater than $60 million. The commercial production of cranberries began on Cape Cod in 1816, the CCCGA said, and Massachusetts currently grows about 23% of the nation’s cranberries. Only Wisconsin grows more.

While the COVID-19 pandemic has made farming more challenging, the CCCGA said “cranberry growers have sustained farming successfully this season” and are preparing for a safe fall harvest. The group said that domestic sales of cranberries have been string during the pandemic.

“Much of that growth is attributed to the numerous health benefits of the superfruit in its various forms. A daily intake of cranberries is a great way to boost immunity, among other positive health benefits,” the CCCGA said in a press release.

By Colin A. Young / State House News Service