The Fresh Pear Committee, which met on June 1 in Wenatchee, Washington, voted to keep the per-box assessment on fresh pears in place. (Kate Prengaman/Good Fruit Grower)
The Fresh Pear Committee, which met on June 1 in Wenatchee, Washington, voted to keep the per-box assessment on fresh pears in place. (Kate Prengaman/Good Fruit Grower)

The fresh pear industry met this week in Wenatchee, Washington, to elect new leaders, discuss the developing crop and set an export marketing strategy.

The Pear Bureau Northwest promotes the region’s pears in domestic and foreign markets under the USA Pears brand. At the organization’s annual meeting, President Kevin Moffitt shared highlights of promotional activities in stores, online shopping platforms and on social media. 

Despite the late spring, growers reported the recent heat has the crop catching up, with Bartlett harvest likely to start in mid-August. It’s too soon to release a formal crop estimate, the bureau’s board decided, though the rough estimate helps the organization set its promotional budget.

Budget discussions led to a robust debate about how Pear Bureau Northwest should allocate its funding in the domestic market. Some board members suggested the industry is due for an assessment increase, while others believe a new vision for promotion and advertising spending should come before asking growers for an assessment increase. 

With rising costs and shorter crops in recent years, “it’s hard to ask the Pear Bureau to do the job we are asking them to do,” said Dick Woodin, president of Congdon Orchards. “I think we need to be realistic.” 

But digital marketing creates the opportunity to reach more consumers for less money, said Doug Gibson, vice president of Mount Adams Fruit.

Recognizing that, the board voted to task a domestic marketing subcommittee with taking a new look at how the promotional budget can best be allocated, and the board recommended keeping the assessment in place for now. 

The assessment is set by the Fresh Pear Committee, which was established under the industry’s federal marketing order. That committee voted to maintain the assessment this year at 0.468 cents per box, which is allocated at 0.385 cents for promotion, 0.045 cents for research and 0.038 cents for administration.

The bureau’s export committee discussed the need to focus promotion efforts on the top markets — Mexico, Canada and Latin American — and pull back on spending in offshore markets where logistical challenges and freight costs have severely limited shipments in recent years. 

“There’s no extraordinary event on the horizon that’s going to change the picture. We need to continue to focus on Mexico and Canada,” said Dave Martin, export sales manager for Stemilt Growers. 

“I do have confidence that we have good potential in the Latin American markets. This is the area we are going to have to focus, our continent,” said Jeff Webb, director of international business development at Domex Superfresh Growers. 

“The feeling from the board is that India is no longer a viable place to place $100,000 in grower money,” said committee chair Bryan Peebles, export manager at Chelan Fresh. 

Pear Bureau Northwest’s international marketing director Jeff Correa told the board that, based on direction from the committee, the program’s $4.5 million budget (including $3.2 million in U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Market Access Program funding) will pull back in those offshore markets, with more resources allocated to an “on-demand” fund that responds to volumes shipped to smaller markets as the season progresses. 

by Kate Prengaman