Pledge over hop switch

THIS year’s bounty of Derwent Valley hops will be sent to northeast Victoria for processing, the first time in 170 years the Tasmanian crop has not been dried, pressed and pelletized at Bushy Park. Hop Products Australia (HPA) announced the change last week, but emphasized it would have “little to no effect” on its workforce or operations in Tasmania.

HPA’s Head of Sales and Marketing Owen Johnston said the switch to Victoria reflects the company’s increasing acreage in the Ovens River and Buffalo River valleys, south of Albury-Wodonga. Between them, the company’s hopfields cover some 800ha, including the 270ha in and around Bushy Park. “That’s why we’ve chosen to centralise the pelleting, packing and storage of the entire Australian crop in Victoria from 2024,” he said.

Based in Myrtleford, the HPA plant was a Tobacco Cooperative of Victoria facility. HPA farms in the alpine region of northeast Victoria are utilising what was commercial tobacco farming property until that industry ceased operations in 2006. The climatic conditions, soil types and water supplies that sustain hops are considered ideal for tobacco crops as well. In Tasmania, the two were grown side by side in Bushy Park through the 1930s, stimulated by Depression-era tariffs on imported tobacco leaf. Tasmanian hops will be ready for picking after Christmas. The flowers, known as cones, are dried and pressed into pellets, the finished hop product, and sealed into oxygen-barrier foil before shipping. Next year’s crop will instead be packed into old-fashioned 100kg hessian bales and sent to Victoria for processing.

Mr Johnston estimates HPA’s Derwent Valley crop at about 500 metric tonnes. And while Tasmanian agricultural exporters take advantage of what’s called backloading – exporting via otherwise empty containers and trucks to the mainland – “shifting that kind of volume is a significant exercise” for the company. From 2024, the current pellet plant at Bushy Park Estates will be decommissioned, and the facility will be repurposed. “Bushy Park Estates has a special place in our heart,” Mr Johnston said.

“It’s our oldest growing region and will remain absolutely integral to our operation. “Workers can turn their full attention to maximising yield and quality in the field amid a changing climate. “Breeding and growing hops in diverse regions helps protect us from the risk of extreme weather events which are becoming more and more frequent. “Either way, the future of hops in the Derwent Valley is secure.