Friday, 19 January 2018

The economics of growing Farnham hops in the 1850's

The select committee report has some very detailed information on hop growing. Including the economics of the business.

They're still questioning Mr . Harris, a farmer from Hampshire. First, the ask him about cost of growing hops.

"3421. Chairman.] Will you state to the Committee what you consider the expense of cultivating an acre of hop land ? — I never took that into consider ation, being a small grower. I was not aware that I should be called here to-day. In taking that point into calculation, I should think it is something, like £22 or £25 an acre. If I had known that I should have been called upon, I would have looked a little into it.

3422. Mr. Bass.] Is that exclusive of the expenses of the picking and the duty ? —Yes.

3423. Chairman.] What do you set the other expenses at ? — Picking, drying, and duty we generally consider at something like 50s. a cwt. ; from 40s. to 50s. a cwt.

3424. Mr. Bass.] Does not that include the selling ? —Yes.

3425. Chairman.] What do you consider a good crop ? —We grow very little; I was looking back to my previous crops since I received the orders the other day to come here, and I find that my crop for seven years previous to 1855 was 4.5 cwt.; but 1855 was something more. In 1855 it was 18 cwt.; but last year it was a little over half a ton; I never grew more than half a ton on my own land the whole of the time, since I have been a farmer, until 1855.

3426. How do your hops compare in the market with Kent Goldings? —The Kent Goldings are worth considerably more than our hops as we are told; it is a very difficult matter to get at what they are worth.

3427. What do the white bine hops, such as you grow, fetch? —Last year we made from 65s. to 70s. The year before, I calculated that I sold in the early part of August at 1s. a pound, and it was not a bad speculation. They would have been sold at four guineas, or something of the kind, if I had taken them to market.

3428. Mr. Brand.] When white bines are worth 70s., what would the Goldings be worth? —I have seen very little of Goldings. I have seen Mr. Payne's growth of Farnham and at Weyhill."
Report from the Select Committee on Hop Duties, 1857, pages 179 - 180.
Those numbers just don't add up. It looks to me as if Mr. Harris were losing money by growing hops. He had 12 acres under hops, so taking the higher value of £25 an acre, that makes £300. In addition, Picking, drying, and duty amounted to 50s (£2.5) per cwt. Taking a good year, where the yield was 10 cwt. an acre, that comes to an additional £25 an acre, making £600 in total expenses.

Now let's take a look at how much Mr. Harris could sell his hops for. Taking the higher amount of 70s a cwt., his total receipts for 12 acres come to just £420. Leaving him with a loss of £180. Only in 1855, when he had an exceptionally good crop of 18 cwt. per acre, would he appear to have made a profit. That would have netted him £720, a profit of £120.

The price of hops, however, was highly variable. As this table shows:

London hop prices
Year. £ s. d.
1842 4 8 10
1843 6 0 9
1844 7 3 0
1845 6 10 0
1846 5 0 0
1847 3 10 0
1848 2 15 0
1849 7 10 0
1850 3 10 0
1851 6 10 0
1852 4 5 0
1853 11 11 0
1854 20 0 0
"A Practical Treatise on Malting and Brewing" by William Ford, 1862, page 289.

1 comment:

Alan said...

Wot?!? Farmers complaining about profit? If the sun up or down?