Tuesday 13 March 2018

UK Hop acreage by region 1914 - 1921

Numbers, numners, numbers. They're so much easier to deal with than words. And people.

I've got so many numbers, it's really hard to keep track. Especially of the hop ones, where I've harvested ones in multiple different formats.

The Hop Control Board was established in 1917 after the government had forced hop growers to grub up half their hop bines nad grow food instead. The Board bought the whole of the crop and then sold it on to brewers. During the war the idea was to protect what was left of the hop industry. After it, to help it rebuild and get the acreage back to pre-war levels.

The Hop Controller also fixed the price of English hops. By keeping the price relatively high and not allowing any foreign hops to be purchased by brewers until the whole of the UK crop had been sold, they hoped to prevent a flood of cheap imported hops. The higher the price, the greater the acreage that would be planted, was the reasoning.

It worked to a certain extent, but not 100%. Interwar hope acreage peaked at 26,452 in 1922. It remained at 23,000-25,000 acres for the rest of the 1920's, but fell to around 18,000 acres for most of the 1930s. Or about half the pre-WW I level.*

What is it now? Far, far less. In 2010, just 2,644 acres, or about 10% of what it had been in 1921.**

UK Hop acreage by region 1914 - 1921
Counties. 1921 1920 1919 1914 1914-1921
Kent- Acres. Acres. Acres. Acres. % lost
East 4,000 3,260 2,530 6,174 35.21%
Mid 5,420 4,520 3,650 7,604 28.72%
Weald 6,640 5,710 4,380 8,848 24.95%
Total 16,060 13,490 10,500 22,626 29.02%
Hants 1,040 840 700 1,580 34.18%
Hereford 3,510 2,990 2,420 5,507 36.26%
Surrey 200 170 180 585 65.81%
Sussex 2,270 1,790 1,410 3,038 25.28%
Worcester 1,900 1,680 1,370 3,194 40.51%
Other Counties 60 60 50 133 54.89%
Total 25,120 21,000 16,750 36,661 31.48%
Brewers' Almanack 1922, page 107.

Note how uneven the fall in acreage was in different regions. Kent and Sussex fare better than average, everywhere else, worse. It looks to me like marginal hop-growing areas just couldn't be bothered to start up again.

* Brewers' Almanack 1955, page 63.
** Barth Hop Market Telegram June 2011


  1. Labour availability has always been a big factor in hopgrowing, and never more so than in the immediate aftermath of WWI and the 1919 flu pandemic.

    Just as an aside, you can get more recent stats from the IHGC, which break out hop production by variety - who'd have thought that Progress would be the UK's star hop by acreage increase in 2017?

    The HGA convert hectares into acres and give a 5-year view, the UK bottomed out at 2,209 acres in 2015 but has recovered modestly since then, I imagine the current prices will be reflected in acreage additions this winter :

  2. Fascinated rather than bored.