Czech farmers are predicting a slight increase in the hop harvest this year. Hop production is set to go up by five to nine percent, reaching up to 5,800 tonnes. One of the factors that has contributed to the favourable outlook is the fact that the overall area of hop fields has expanded for the first time in 14 years. The traditional Czech crop is now being grown on 4,460 hectares of land.
In the year 2000 hops were grown on 6,000 hectares. Since then, however, the area has been gradually shrinking to a low of 4,319 hectares in 2013. The rise over the last year has been in large part due to a financial boost from the Ministry of Agriculture. The chairman of the Czech Association of Hop Growers Luboš Hejda says that to keep up with the current development worldwide, the hop fields need to expand at at least the same rate over the next two or three years.
Czech hop growers have been facing various difficulties in recent years, especially due to a drop in demand caused by increased production worldwide and accumulation of stocks in breweries. Crops were also damaged by severe droughts and freezes in 2012 as well as by last years’ floods. Between the years 2008 and 2015, the area of hop fields shrank by thousands of hectares. The Hop Growers’ Association would like to get back to Czech cultivation on around 5,000 hectares, as it was before the year 2011.
More than 87 percent of the overall Czech hop yield is made up by the Saaz hops – a mild aromatic variety called “žatecký poloraný červeňák” or Žatec semi-early red-bine hops. Other varieties include Sládek, Premiant and the bitter Agnus.
According to the estimates of the International Hop Growers’ Association, hops are grown on more than 47, 000 hectares worldwide. The Czech Republic is the third largest exporter of hops in the world, and the biggest producer of fine aromatic varieties. Around 80 percent of the total Czech production of hops is exported, the largest customer traditionally being Japan.