Despite a frosty spring and an exceptionally wet July, Massachusetts' cranberry growers are still expecting to harvest a "solid" crop of the tart berries this fall, likely representing nearly 25% of the nationwide haul.
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 2023 is 1.96 million barrels, each containing 100 pounds. That would be down about 1% from the actual 2022 harvest.
"It's been a challenging year for our growers but optimism prevails for a solid crop. The cold spring produced many frost nights, a few resulting in scattered frost damage to the tender vines. The weather turned more favorable for pollination season in June but transitioned to a rainy July. Despite weather-related difficulties, our resourceful growers stand strong through each challenge," CCCGA Executive Director Brian Wick said. "By the end of September our growers will start to harvest our healthy, native berries. It's always exciting for our communities to witness the full-circle growing cycle that culminates in a uniquely beautiful harvest."
Nationally, the cranberry harvest is projected to total 8.22 million barrels, so Massachusetts cranberries will make up just short of one-quarter of all cranberries harvested in the United States this year. Only Wisconsin grows more.
Cranberries are the most significant agricultural food commodity produced in Massachusetts, with an annual crop value of $73.4 million, according to the CCCGA. The group said the state's cranberry industry provides almost 6,400 jobs and a total economic benefit of more than $1.7 billion to the Massachusetts economy, based on statistics from the Farm Credit East Knowledge Exchange Report.
The Mass. Department of Agriculture said in its 2022 annual report that Massachusetts has approximately 375 cranberry growers operating about 13,250 bogs. MDAR said that a growing world supply of cranberries has been contributing to declining prices for the Massachusetts harvest. Growth in foreign production, especially in Quebec, "contributes to increased competition and the supply in the cranberry market," MDAR said.
"Another challenge to the Massachusetts cranberry industry is the federal administration's trade policy. The cranberry industry is impacted by trade policy more than other agricultural sector[s] in Massachusetts, partly due to political leverage," MDAR wrote in its annual report. It added, "The current federal administration's position on free trade leaves the cranberry industry with fewer markets abroad due to trade restrictions such as tariffs."