Australia’s leading hop grower Hop Products Australia (HPA) has completed its 2021 harvest, picking 675 hectares across their three farms that yielded 1,526 metric tonnes.

This represented a 44 hectare (+6.9%) increase and a 25 metric tonne (-1.6%) decrease year-on-year across six proprietary varieties: Eclipse; Ella; Enigma; Galaxy; Topaz; and Vic Secret – as well as the non-proprietary Cascade. Ella came in 22% under contracted volumes while Topaz and Cascade yields were significantly down on the previous year, but HPA said that was due to reductions and idling of acreage for those two varieties.

With responsible contracting in place HPA said it will meet all of their obligations with the exception of Ella and that it will now work with breweries to minimise the impact of that, including suggesting replacement hops from their international and advanced product portfolio.

Despite the La Niña weather pattern causing total yield to come in under expectations the return on HPA’s star hop Galaxy grew 7.2% to total 974 metric tonnes. This follows a 24% increase last year over the 2019 harvest

Managing Director Tim Lord said: “This marks 11 years of continuous growth for Galaxy, with the exception of 2016 when HPA was hit with significant hail damage”.

Vic Secret yield grew by 11.1% to total 233 metric tonnes while Eclipse, HPA’s newest proprietary variety, looks set to overshadow other HPA varieties in the near future after exceeding expectations in just its second year of commercialisation having already been used by over 500 breweries globally in a variety of styles. Coming from a low base, its year-on-year variation was up 106.9% with a total yield of 51 metric tonnes.

“Sustainably scaling up Eclipse, Galaxy and Vic Secret has been the focus of a continuing $35 million expansion in Victoria that will take HPA’s total farming operation to more than 800 hectares at completion,” Tim added.

Since the expansion project was announced in 2019 they have planted an additional 270 hectares, 110 of which were planted in 2020. This leaves an additional 30 hectares to plant in 2021. All additional acreage will reach commercial maturity by 2024, at which point Eclipse is forecast to reach 180 metric tonnes, making it HPA’s third biggest proprietary variety.

HPA said the impact of their hops in beer remains strong, with this year’s average oil content coming in above the five year average for all varieties except Enigma. Having created a division of agronomic services, with the purpose of improving yield, quality and efficiencies across their farming operations, HPA said these results are set to continue.

“This is an extension of HPA’s strategy to grow alongside brewing customers by continuing to offer choice and diversity through the commercialisation of experimental varieties, and supporting successful beers by backing our more popular Aussie hops with significant acreage,” HPA’s head of sales Owen Johnston said (pictured above, on the left, with Tim Lord, centre, and Simon Whittock – HPA’s manager of agronomic services).

This season HPA’s three farms – Bushy Park Estates in Tasmania and Rostrevor Hop Gardens and Buffalo River Valley in Victoria – endured the La Niña weather pattern which resulted in slightly cooler daytime temperatures due to increased cloud cover, particularly in the weeks preceding harvest. While these conditions had a positive impact on early vegetative growth, the decrease in daylight hours reduced the total number of flowering sites and some cones fought to reach full maturity by their harvest window which adversely impacted total yield.

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