The Slovenia Times

Hop harvest likely to be much lower than last year

Environment & Nature

Žalec - This year's hops harvest is expected to be much worse that last year's as preliminary estimate shows that the figure will stand at some 1,300 tonnes, down 40% year-on-year due to unfavourable weather conditions. Hops expert Irena Friškovec said that much would depend on the weather in the next two weeks.

This year's crop has been affected by high temperatures and lack of rainfall, Friškovec told the STA ahead of Hop Growers Day, which will be celebrated on Sunday to mark the official start of the hops harvest in the Lower Savinja Valley in the east of the country.

The situation could still turn for the better though, as favourable weather conditions in the coming days may have a positive effect on the development of cones in late hop varieties.

The Savinja Golding variety has reached maturity in non-irrigated hop yards and is ready for harvesting, which will start next week. In the case of irrigation, maturity will be reached at the end of the week, she said.

Most of the hop fields are equipped with irrigation systems, but in the event of droughts as severe as this year's is, the current water resources in the Lower Savinja Valley are insufficient, so it is important that the area should get retention basins or wet ponds in the coming years.

This year, 19 hop growers in Slovenia are cultivating some 1,600 hectares of hop fields, of which 145 hectares are first-year plantations. Hop growing is the mainstay of the Lower Savinja Valley with more than 1,100 hectares located there.

Mihael Vitko, director of the Žalec-based company Hmezad Exim, told the STA that certain hop varieties had been selling poorly last year due to Covid and reduced beer sales, so supplies were piling up.

Asked about the purchase price of hops this year, Vitko said that most hops were sold at prices that are agreed in advance, so it is difficult to talk about prices on the free market.

"There is a lot of pressure on the market from the major brewers. They are faced with rising prices of raw materials, packaging and resources, but on the other hand they know that hop production is at record levels," Vitko said.

The main markets for Slovenian hops are Europe, Russia and Asia. The situation with Russia is currently precarious due to sanctions imposed against the country, but new markets are opening up, such as Japan, where around 500 tonnes of Slovenian hops were already used in the past, and South Korea.

Vitko sees hop growing as a promising agricultural sector, noting that Slovenia has a high percentage of irrigated areas.

He stressed the need for improved coordination in hop production, meaning communication between growers and traders, and understanding of the direction of global markets and flexibility.

Friškovec also thinks that the situation seems promising. Young people are interested in hop growing, hop farms are technologically comparable to European or world producers, most of them are equipped with drip irrigation systems, and there is the Slovenian Institute of Hop Research and Brewing with internationally renowned experts, she said.

"We have developed our own varieties, which have been bred at the institute and are adapted to Slovenian growing conditions. There is definitely a future for hop growing."

Prior to the 60th Hop Growers Day on Sunday, the Association of Hop Growers will hold a meeting in the village of Braslovče near Žalec today where they will be joined by Agriculture Minister Irena Šinko.


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