Mark Miller heads the Northwest pear industry's efforts to promote canned pears.

Mark Miller heads the Northwest pear industry’s efforts to promote canned pears.

Northwest pear growers will pay a reduced assessment on canned pears in the coming season. The rate will drop from $7.33 per ton to $7.00 per ton.

The new rate was approved at the annual meeting of the Processed Pear Committee in Portland on May 30. The rate includes $5.50 a ton that goes to the Pacific Northwest Canned Pear Service for promotions (down from $6.33 currently), $1.00 for pear research, $0.20 for administration by the Washington State Fruit Commission, and $0.30 to cover committee expenses. Growers in Washington State will pay an additional special assessment of $1 per ton starting with the 2012 crop for research at Washington State University, which was approved in a recent referendum.

Mark Miller, manager of the Pacific Northwest Canned Pear Service, said that the service’s reserves had built up to the level where the assessment rate could be reduced. Miller presented a budget of $654,000 for the coming year, which is based on an estimated processed crop of 120,000 tons, and reserves of almost $480,000 carried over from the current year.

Jay Grandy, who works as a consultant for the Pacific Northwest Canned Pear Service, estimated the Northwest’s total Bartlett crop at 229,000 tons, up from 222,000 tons a year ago. The volume processed in the coming year could be as high as 129,000 tons, up from 125,000 in 2011. He estimates this year’s California Bartlett crop at around 175,000 tons, down from 187,000 tons in 2011.

The Canned Pear Service, which has existed for 16 years, has two staff members who work primarily with foodservice operators throughout the country to set up promotions for canned pears. Miller covers the western part of the country, while Sonia Diamond covers the East. Diamond plans to retire at the end of the year, after about 13 years in the position. She will be succeeded by Rensi Shirley, who worked for the Canned Pear Service until a year ago when she had to leave because of ill health.

Staff work with foodservice distributors and operators to increase awareness of canned pears through merchandising, publicity, education, promotions, and incentive programs. They also attend foodservice trade shows and conferences and contact food editors. This year, the Canned Pear Service will run a contest for easy-to-make recipes using canned pears. Miller also works with the pear industry to help secure U.S. Department of Agriculture food program purchases. The USDA buys a significant volume of canned pears.

The number of pear processors in the Northwest has been shrinking. There are now just three processors: Del Monte Foods, Independent Foods, and Northwest Packing, which are all in Washington. B.J. Thurlby, manager of the Processed Pear Committee, said the Canned Pear Service’s board plans to meet with processors and growers to do some strategic planning and discuss what will be required from the Canned Pear Service in the future.

In addition, the Processed Pear Committee, which is a federal marketing order, must periodically evaluate the effectiveness of the promotion program. This is a requirement of the U.S. Department of Agriculture resulting from the Federal Agriculture Improvement and Reform (FAIR) Act. The committee will explore the possibility of doing the evaluation in conjunction with the Fresh Pear Committee whose promotions are being studied by Washington State University.

Committee member Peter Verbrugge said results of the evaluation might help the committee ensure that the canned pear promotion program is providing the best benefit to the growers. “This evaluation could not do anything but help in doing that,” he said.