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Average Wisconsin cranberry crop expected after dry summer

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FILE - Cutler Cranberry marsh, Camp Douglas, Wis.

JUNCTION CITY, Wis. (AP) — Wisconsin’s cranberry crop is expected to end up being about average — or maybe even above average — by the time harvest begins in about a month.

The U.S. Cranberry Marketing Committee forecast in August that Wisconsin growers will produce 4.92 million barrels this year. But Wisconsin Cranberry Growers Association executive director Tom Lochner said this year’s estimated crop is closer to the state’s average of 5.5 million barrels.

“We still have a few weeks to go before we start harvesting and the continued warm weather might help the fruit size up a little bit,” Lochner told Wisconsin Public Radio.

Dave Hansen, manager of DuBay Cranberry Company in Junction City, said this summer’s weather was warmer and drier than he prefers, but the crop ended up looking good.

“It looks like it’s going to be an average or little above-average crop for us here at DuBay,” Hansen said. “It’s finally cooling off and right now, it’s got the hint of fall coming. So it’s just right around the corner.”

Lochner said this year’s crop will be larger than what growers have brought in over the last two years. Wisconsin’s 2020 crop totaled 4.64 million barrels; 2019 totaled 4.67 million.

Lochner said the COVID-19 pandemic has helped boost domestic sales of the fruit, with more people consuming cranberry juice and dried fruit at home, while international sales tapered off during the pandemic, perhaps due to tariffs. The European Union has maintained a 25% tariff on U.S. cranberry products.

The pandemic has also created labor issues for the cranberry industry. Lochner said some cranberry growers have been working to bring in migrant workers from southern states to help this fall.

Hansen said DuBay has been investing in more automated technology in recent years to help reduce annual labor needs.

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