Northwest pear growers predict manageable fresh crop
Kevin Moffitt said the 2011 pear season was a challenging one. Growers expect a smaller crop in 2012.
After being taken by surprise by a record crop last season, Pacific Northwest pear growers expect to harvest a manageable fresh crop in 2012.
The industry’s first official estimate of the 2012 fresh winter pear crop, finalized during the Fresh Pear Committee’s annual meeting in Portland, Oregon, on May 31, is 14.8 million boxes, down from a record 16.3 million last season. The pear industry also expects to harvest 4.4 million boxes of fresh Bartlett and other summer and fall varieties, a slight increase from a year ago.
Kevin Moffitt, president of the Pear Bureau Northwest, said that the 2011 season proved challenging. Harvest was late, and the crop ended up being 12 percent larger than the preseason estimate. In addition, it included a higher percentage of small and Fancy grade fruit than usual. Retailers didn’t step up to market the crop as well as they could, and it became a slog. However, by the end of the season, the industry will have moved a record crop in a shortened season at prices that were higher than for the last record crop in 2009.
The 2012 estimate puts the winter pear crop 2 percent above the five-year average and 6 percent below last year’s. The Wenatchee district is expecting a good, clean crop of 5.4 million boxes of d’Anjou pears, a 15 to 20 percent decrease from last year. The Mid-Columbia district expects to harvest 3.9 million boxes of d'Anjou pears, the Yakima district 1.0 million, and Medford 81,000 boxes, which are similar volumes to a year ago.
The Northwest Bosc crop is forecast at 3.0 million boxes, down from 3.4 million a year ago. The Wenatchee district's fresh Bartlett crop is estimated at 2.0 million boxes, down from 2.2 million a year ago. Other districts expect volumes similar to last year.
Moffitt said California, which is not expected to release its crop estimate until mid-June, is thought to have a smaller fresh Bartlett crop than last year, but a good Bosc crop.
Starting with the 2012 season, the assessments that Northwest growers pay will be the same rate on all varieties. Until now, the assessment on winter pears has been higher than the Bartlett rate. The rationale was that the marketing season for winter pears was longer than for summer and fall pears. All varieties of pears are promoted by the Pear Bureau.
Mike Taylor of Wenatchee, a board member of the Pear Bureau Northwest, said the industry needs retailers to promote the whole pear category, and many of the promotions and advertisements feature multiple varieties. “It makes sense to unify the program,” he said.
“I think it’s the smart way to go,” Moffitt agreed. “It would make things simpler.”
For the 2012 season, the promotion assessment rate for all pear varieties will be 38.5 cents a box. It is currently 30 cents for summer/fall varieties and 41 cents for winter varieties. The Fresh Pear Committee will collect a total of 44.9 cents a box on all varieties. That includes 3.3 cents a box for the committee’s operational expenses and 3.1 cents a box for research in addition to the promotion assessment.
Moffitt said the Pear Bureau's goals for the coming season are to increase the number of times consumers buy pears and to work with retailers to increase display space for pears and include more sizes and varieties in displays and promotions. It will also push for early promotions to start off the season.