Canned pear consumption and West Coast Bartlett pear production have both declined over the past few years.
Last season, the West Coast produced 430,000 tons of Bartlett pears, down from as many as 550,000 tons during the 1990s, Jay Grandy, manager of the Washington-Oregon Canning Pear Association, reports. The reduction in tonnage has been mainly in California, which used to be the country’s top Bartlett-producing region. The Pacific Northwest now produces more Bartletts than California.
The Northwest’s 2007 Bartlett pear crop is estimated at 241,000 tons, about the same as last year. Of that, 140,000 tons are likely to be processed (down from 153,000 tons last year), and 89,000 tons will be sold fresh (up from 78,000 tons last year).
Although Washington’s Yakima district continues to grow pears primarily for canning, producers in Hood River, Oregon, have made a major shift to the fresh market because of better returns, Grandy reported at the annual Pear Day of the Washington Growers Clearing House Association. Only about 40 percent of the Hood River district crop is processed now, down from about 75 percent in 1993.
Grandy said Northwest pear processors are starting the 2007 season with a carryover of 2.7 million cases of canned pears, compared with 2.3 million a year ago. Consumption of canned pears in the United States declined from 8.8 million cases in 2003 to 7.7 million in 2006, and an increasing proportion of those pears are imported from China and Thailand. The United States imports the equivalent of 1.5 million cases of pears, but exports only 0.4 million cases.
Many of the pears coming into the country from Thailand are U.S. pears that were exported to Thailand to be packed into plastic single-serving containers and exported by Dole back to the United States, Grandy said. During the past year, Del Monte has been importing pears from China in single-serving containers, but these are thought to be Chinese pears. Snokist Growers is the only U.S. processor packaging pears in single—serving containers in the United States.