Northwest pear growers are feeling optimistic about the upcoming crop, which should be large, but not a record.
Pear industry representatives from Washington and Oregon compiled the first official forecast of the season during meetings in Portland, Oregon, this week. They pegged the total pear crop at 20 million boxes, about half a million boxes more than last season.
The Northwest pear industry is finishing up one of its most successful seasons ever, with record prices. The average f.o.b. price for the 2012-13 season to date is more than $24 a box, according to the Washington Growers Clearing House Association.
The industry benefitted from shorter supplies in competing areas, such as California and the Eastern United States. Fewer pears were imported from the Southern Hemisphere this year because more pears went to other parts of the world, such as Europe, which also had a short crop, reported Kevin Moffitt, president of the Pear Bureau Northwest, which promotes Northwest pears around the world under the USA Pears brand.
Mike Taylor, vice president of sales and marketing for Stemilt Growers, Inc., Wenatchee, who serves on the industry’s Fresh Pear Committee, said the outlook for the coming season continues to be very promising.
“I would say the coming season looks very favorable,” he said. “Coming off such a great year, the retail community has revitalized their attention around pears.”
He felt that the Pear Burea’s efforts to work more closely with shippers and marketers when setting up retail promotions had paid off. “We’re all pulling in the same direction right now.”
Taylor said high prices for apples have helped change perceptions about fruit prices, which has led to higher prices for pears, too. “We used to think $25 was a lot of money for a box of apples. Now we have Honeycrisp selling for $100, so $30 pears are a bargain. The grower gets a fair return and can reinvest in his farm.”
Although the California pear industry won’t issue it’s 2013 crop estimate until mid-June, it appears that the crop will be around 4.5 million 36-pound boxes (equivalent to 3.7 million standard boxes), which would be a larger volume than last year, Moffitt said. Harvest should begin around July 5 to 6, about ten days earlier than usual.
The Northwest pear harvest will begin in early August. The Bartlett and summer/fall pear crop is estimated at 4.7 million boxes, down from 5 million boxes last season. The winter pear crop is forecast at 15.1 million boxes, up from 14.5 million last year, but below the record of 16.3 million harvested in 2011.
The total Northwest d’Anjou crop is estimated at 10.6 million boxes. The Mid-Columbia region’s d’Anjou crop is down slightly from last year at 3.5 million boxes, with some frost damage reported. The d’Anjou crop in the Yakima, Washington, district is also down slightly from last year at 1.0 million boxes, but Wenatchee representatives say they expect to harvest 6 million boxes of d’Anjous—almost as many as in 2011.
The region’s Bosc crop is expected to be just under 3 million boxes, up slightly from last year.
Jay Grandy, manager of the Washington-Oregon Canning Pear Association, said the volume of Bartlett pears expected to be processed is estimated at 120,000 tons or less, down from 126,000 tons last year. Grandy said movement of canned pears was strong last season and inventories are relatively low. “It looks very positive right now,” he said. “As we go into next year’s crop we’re going to have less on hand than we’ve had in several years.”