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During the past 47 days, I wrote these 47 blogs because I believe the hop industry is at an important crossroad. Decisions made now will determine the direction of the hop industry for the balance of this decade and much of the next. The actions of growers and merchants now have never held more consequence and should not be made lightly. They should proceed only after careful analysis of the market and with access to information.
There is obviously a lack of transparency and openness within the hop industry. The hop market is opaque and inefficient. The secrecy and fear of speaking one’s mind is obvious by the lack of comments on these blogs. Thousands have read them each day. I have received hundreds of emails with nice messages of support. There is clearly a shortage of market information. Everybody from the brewer and the grower to the banker is hungry for that information. I may not be able to change the way secrecy permeates the industry so long as the stakes are incredibly high. I don’t expect to. Money doesn’t trust anybody.
My goal with these 47 blogs over the past 47 days has been simply to increase awareness about the times in which we find ourselves by speaking out. We are living through unique and unprecedented times. Today we see sustained increases (albeit at a slowing rate) in the popularity and demand for hops. Customers seem to be sincerely interested in paying a sustainable price, rather than just giving it lip service. The situation requires a fresh perspective and bold new thinking or the industry risks a return to the ways of the past.
No longer is the market an all or nothing game. Growers and merchants don’t need to binge on every opportunity that arises out of fear that the future may bring a vicious down cycle. Binging has been the reason for the down cycles of the past. If another down cycle occurs in the years to come it will be due to a lack of self-restraint. Growers and merchants can afford to say no to bad deals. It is possible to reach a higher plain without jeopardizing everything everybody has worked so hard to achieve.
The hop industry has always reacted to market conditions. Everybody throws their dice simultaneously each spring and nobody knows where they land until harvest. Some of that risk is inherent in agriculture. Part of it though is due to the lack of organization and trust among people who have everything in common. As a result, a feast and famine cycle causes some to find fortune while others dreams are broken. There are great farmers that are out of business today. Success or failure is not a sign of intelligence or goodness. As the dollars grow, the primitive animal spirit keeps growers and merchants fiercely independent. Each player seems convinced they know better than their neighbor. With their determination and stubbornness, the uncertainty grows ever larger.
“It is not the strongest or the most intelligent who will survive
but those who can best manage change. – Charles Darwin
The more things change the more they stay the same. The promise of fortune keeps everybody coming back for more. If growers think they must go full speed ahead in pursuit of the brass ring, the future may resemble the past. That need not be the case.
We’ve reached the end of this challenge, but this is only the beginning. The most interesting times lie ahead. I’d like to thank everybody who read any of the blogs so far. I am honored and humbled that so many of you have tuned in. If a few of you have found them useful, then I consider the effort a success. Going forward (after a short break) I’ll be writing 2-3 blogs every week. The goal for the future will be to continue to increase the dialogue, and to reduce the opacity that embodies the hop market. Subscribe if you want to continue to get an inside view of the hop industry’s most interesting days as they unfold.