Record fresh Bartlett crop forecast
Northwest growers are targeting the fresh market because of strong pricing.
Pear producers in Washington and Oregon expect to harvest a record fresh Bartlett crop this year and more winter pears than in 2006.
The first official forecast of the 2007 season, compiled during the annual meeting of the Fresh Pear Committee in Portland, Oregon, on May 31, indicates a total fresh pear crop of 18 million boxes from the two states.
The winter pear crop is estimated at 13.7 million boxes, up from 12.9 million last year. The summer and fall pear crop, which includes Bartlett, Starcrimson, and other summer and fall pear varieties, is forecast at a record 4.3 million, up from 3.8 million boxes last year. The Bartlett crop is expected to exceed 4 million boxes for the first time.
Winter pear production has been on a slightly downward trend since the record 16.4-million-box crop of 1997, while fresh production of summer and fall varieties has increased.
The Wenatchee, Washington, district is forecasting a winter pear crop of 6.4 million boxes, up from the hail-damaged 2006 crop of 5.1 million. Jerry Kenoyer at Blue Star Growers, Cashmere, said the crop in the Wenatchee Valley should be clean, as there was very little frost damage. However, some of the orchards that were devastated by hail last summer have light crops this season, which Kenoyer said might be related to bud damage.
The Wenatchee district's summer and fall pear production is up from last season. Kenoyer said that growers in the Wenatchee Valley have been diversifying over the past few years into Bartlett, Concorde, Starcrimson, and Red Clapp. Meanwhile, some of the older d'Anjou orchards have been replanted and are yet to reach full production again.
The Yakima, Washington, district's winter pear crop is forecast at 1.7 million cartons, similar to last year, but summer and fall pear production (including Bartlett) has been steadily increasing over the past few years, reaching an estimated 720,400 cartons this year.
Rob Stewart at Stadelman Fruit Company, Zillah, said returns for fresh Bartletts have been good for the last several years, so more growers are targeting that market. The increase has been steady from year to year, rather than dramatic. "As long as we move cautiously forward, we'll manage to expand the market a little bit each year and take care of the increased production," he said.
Bartlett production in California has been gradually declining, creating more opportunities for Northwest Bartletts on the fresh market. California begins shipping Bartletts in early July, whereas the Northwest doesn't begin until early to mid-August, Stewart said. "As they shorten their crops up in California, and ours increases a little bit, there seems to be plenty of room for both."
The Mid-Columbia district is expecting to harvest 4.8 million boxes of winter pears, down from 5.0 million last year. Fred Duckwall at Duckwall-Pooley Fruit Company, Odell, Oregon, said the district's Bosc crop is probably down 25 percent because of light bloom, but fruit size should be good. The d'Anjou crop is similar to last year's, with little frost marking.
Summer and fall pear production is slightly up at 1.4 million boxes. Duckwall said Bartlett growers in the Mid-Columbia district are shifting from the cannery to the fresh market because of better returns. "Growers are switching, trying to get as many pears on the fresh side as they possibly can."
The Medford, Oregon, district expects to harvest a relatively small crop of 819,900 boxes of winter pears this year, down from 1 million boxes last year. As in other areas, production of summer and fall varieties is on the rise, and this year's crop is estimated at 273,900 boxes.