Craft brewers around the world are now feverishly seeking hops from South Africa’s Western Cape.
But given the hot and dry climate of the region, growing hops in South Africa is a near impossibility.
However, the odds have been thrown to the wind as a number of farmers there are now considered to be suppliers of the highly-flavored varieties of hops which are sought by brewers of craft beer. It must be mentioned that South Africa itself is a huge beer loving country.
By 2021, South Africa could turn out to be a net exporter of the flower, believes Anheuser-Busch InBev, the world’s biggest brewer, which is reflective of the prospects of the flower being grow in large quantities in the country.
“We believe hops can be the next wine from South Africa,” said John Rogers, director of raw material procurement and agricultural development for Africa at AB InBev.
According to the International Organization of Vine and Wine, South Africa ranks as the 7th largest producer of wine in the world. With a total annual production of about 11 million hectoliters, the country accounts for about 4 per cent pf the total wine produced globally. The country has also beaten the U.S. to be the 6th largest exporter of wine globally.
In comparison, though weather conditions in the country has prevented large scale production of hops there as it accounts for just under 1 per cent of 1% of the global production.
But the great flavor of the hops produced in South Africa make them a highly sought-after product. For example, California’s Faction Brewing Company makes its 2Hop Pale Ale from some of the local aromatic varieties of the flower like African Queen and Southern Passion.
The only place in the where it is possible to cultivate these different aroma flavors on a commercial basis is in a 424 hectare of land in South Africa’s Western Cape province, says Rogers.
A significant presence in South Africa was acquired by Budweiser-brewer AB InBev via its huge acquisition of SABMiller in 2016.
Investments of about $500,000 was pledged to be invested in hop farming and in general agricultural development in South Africa between 2018 and 2020 by the “King of Beers” after the acquisition.
Large investments in better irrigation technologies would be used to enhance yields hat are well below the global average.
But that would be quite a difficult task.
A severe shortfall in rains in 2017 resulted in a drop of hop production of up to 20 per cent in South Africa.
This year too, there is a severe drought which is being called the worst in history in Western Cape and therefore even through the 2018 crops look healthier according to Rogers, there is uncertainty about the prospects of harvest this year.
Another headwind for South African hops could be the changing global market dynamics. In 2017, there was a sharp decline the growth of sales of craft beer in the U.S. market which is the largest export market of South Africa. And on the other hand, in the last five years, the total global supply of hop has increased to almost be doubled.
(Adapted from Money.cnn.com)