July 27, 2018 / 3:21 PM / 19 days ago

Cheer for beer brewers as world hop harvest looks good

HAMBURG (Reuters) - Brewers will get a good supply of hops, a key beer ingredient, this year as the world hop harvest is likely to reach a reasonable size, although slightly smaller than last year, the head of German-U.S. global hops trader Barth-Haas Group said.

FILE PHOTO: A worker stirs liquid from a mash tun and hops at the Windsor and Eton brewery in Windsor, Britain April 11, 2018. REUTERS/Peter Nicholls/File Photo

Exceptionally hot, dry weather has hit some crops in northern Europe.

But Germany’s important hop-growing regions have received enough rain and the country should have an “about average” crop, said Stephan Barth, managing partner of the Barth-Haas Group, one of the largest global hops trading houses.

“The world 2018 hop harvest is likely to be slightly down on 2017 but I expect there will be sufficient supplies to meet global needs,” Barth told Reuters.

Along with water, malt and yeast, hops are one of the main ingredients of beer.

The harvest outlook is positive in both Germany and the United States, he said. Together the two countries provide 75 percent of the world’s crop, dominating exports to regions including Asia, Africa and elsewhere in Europe.

The global 2018 hops harvest is expected to be around 117,000 tonnes against a 118,400 ton crop in 2017, Barth estimates.

“This would be slightly down on the year but this is still a decent-sized crop and should meet the requirements of the global beer industry,” Barth said. “There are still tight supplies of some bitter hop types but there is a supply surplus of some flavor varieties.”

The 2018 U.S. crop is estimated to rise slightly from last year’s 47,300 tonnes with harvesting starting in late August.

“An increase of about 800 hectares in sowed area in the U.S. to about 22,400 hectares has helped,” said Barth.

Germany’s crop could reach about 42,000 tonnes against 39,200 tonnes in 2017. Germany’s planted area was increased by about 600 hectares to around 20,100 hectares.

“The state of the German hops crop does vary,” Barth said. “Harvests of other German agricultural crops have suffered from drought this year but hop regions have received enough rain.”

The longest drought in decades is drying out rivers in the Netherlands, hitting cargo traffic and threatening a shortage of bulk supplies, including hops, Joost Sitskoorn of Evofenedex, the Dutch association for logistical companies, told Reuters this week.

The growing popularity of specialty craft beers in Europe, the United States and elsewhere has in recent years helped increase hop demand.

“The remarkable statistic is that the 2.5 percent share of world beer sales volumes held by craft beers consumes around 20 to 25 percent of the hop harvest,” said Barth.

“Craft beers continue to gain popularity, Their rate of growth is slowing in the United States but strong anywhere else.”

“Hop prices, which rose sharply in past years, could stabilize at a high level.”

Reporting by Michael Hogan, editing by Adrian Croft

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