The price for processing Bartlett pears grown in the Pacific Northwest has been set for the next three years.
The two remaining Northwest processors that buy pears on the cash market—Del Monte Foods and Northwest Packing (part of the Neil Jones Food Company)—will pay $260 a ton for field run, No. 1 grade pears for 2012, up from $256 a ton for 2011. The price will rise to $266 per ton for the 2013 crop year and $272 for 2014. The third pear processor, Independent Foods of Yakima, Washington, does not buy on the cash market.
Jay Grandy, manager of the Washington-Oregon Canning Pear Association, who negotiated the prices on behalf of growers, said the canned pear deal is in flux with the bankruptcy of the Yakima, Washington, fruit processor Snokist Growers. It was the largest pear cannery in the country, with a capacity for 60,000 tons of pears, but had been operating at half capacity in recent years.
Del Monte Foods and Pacific Coast Producers bought Snokist’s assets, but are not expected to run the pear operation. In addition, Truitt Brothers of Salem, Oregon, which processed around 22,000 tons of pears annually, has closed its pear facility and transitioned its growers to Northwest Packing.
Grandy said the agreement with the processors was reached more easily this year than in the past. His association’s initial three-year proposal was a realistic one, he said. Del Monte responded with a counter offer. Grandy then made a second proposal that the processors accepted.
“It was a fairly efficient process,” he said. “We didn’t have to go back and forth ten times making changes to our proposal. This is about as early as we have ever resolved it.
“We were trying to get something we felt might help stabilize the grower situation with all this turmoil,” he said. “With Truitt and Snokist dropping out of the business, there’s a fair amount of effort being put forth by the other three companies to try to pick up that tonnage to process it. Having the price stable and firm and set makes that process a lot more logical for everyone.”