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. A bad debt of $44,549 resulting from unpaid assessments on canned tonnage processed by Snokist Growers, which recently went bankrupt, was written off and the promotion budget adjusted accordingly.

The Canned Pear Service, which has existed for 16 years, has two staff members who work primarily with foodservice operators throughout the country to increase awareness of canned pears through merchandising, publicity, education, promotions, and incentive programs. 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.

The number of pear processors in the Northwest has been shrinking in recent years.  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. 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.

Pear assessments equalized

Starting with the 2012 season, the assessments that Northwest pear 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 Northwest.

Mike Taylor of Wenatchee, a Pear Bureau board member, 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,” commented Kevin Moffitt, Pear Bureau president. “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.

The industry’s first official estimate of the 2012 fresh winter pear crop, finalized during 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.

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 similar volumes to last year.