David Edgar, one of the earliest members of the Association of Brewers (now the Brewers Association), is, among other things, a rep for HopUnion, Ralph Olson's hop company. He posted the following on the BA Brewers Forum this morning, and gave me permission to copy it here. It's pretty much self-explanatory.
(David writes:)Ralph Olson asked me to post to the Forum to help clarify some of the rumors that have been circulating. Following are my notes from a conversation a few minutes ago with Ralph.
"During the past week the hop industry has seen two fires in the US. Both were kiln fires at hop growers facilities. In both cases only the kilns were affected and the picking machines were left intact. However the structural damage to the growers' facilities would have to be considered major; and there were some hops lost.
There have been rumors of warehouse fires. As of this moment in time there has been no warehouse fire. However, harvest is still underway and everyone is still at a heightened alert status, because this is the time of year for spontaneous combustion.
On a larger note, the world hop supply has been very tight and appears to be getting tighter by the day as the crop comes in smaller and smaller than what was anticipated, worldwide. Because of the world shortage we have temporarily held up on sales until we know for sure what is coming in. And yes, prices are going into the stratosphere, however very little is to be found even at these high prices. We have been overwhelmed with requests.
There will be hops available, however you must keep in mind that it may not be the hop that you normally use. I have been talking about a shortage in the making for the last couple of years. Even though I have stated this, I still am taken aback at how great this shortage appears to be. I also see the potential for this to last for a few years, as so many acres have been pulled out, around the world, due to poor prices in the past."
Which about covers it.