The volume of U.S. pear exports has declined over the past few years, but the value of exports continues to increase, reports Jeff Correa, director of export promotions for the Pear Bureau –Northwest.

Northwest pear exports dropped to 4.5 million boxes in 2006-2007 from 5.6 million the previous year, according to figures from the shipper associations. However, the average price for exported U.S. pears reached a record of $18 per box for the 2006-2007 season.

Mexico, the top market for U.S. pears, takes 45 percent of the total export volume. Although the volume shipped to Mexico declined last season, the average price per box was $17.54 last season, up $7 from a decade ago. Correa said he sees opportunities in Mexico for new varieties of pears, such as Comice, Starkrimson, and Concorde. He plans to begin a category management program in Mexico and hopes to do longer-term planning with retailers for pear promotions.

Exports to Russia have been climbing since the ruble crashed in 1998. U.S. pear producers are shipping into both eastern and western Russia, and eastern Russia is developing into a Bosc market. Exports last season totaled 200,000 boxes. Correa said the target is 250,000 boxes for 2007-2008.

Brazil, another important market, began taking multiple varieties and imported Comice for the first time last season. Central American countries have been importing more U.S pears since tariffs were dropped as a part of the Central America Free Trade Agreement.

India is the top new market for U.S. pears, Correa said. It has been importing pears for the past four seasons, and he expects India to double the volume to about 150,000 boxes in the next two years. Most exports so far have gone into northern and central India, and not yet into the southern part of the country.

India is experiencing phenomenal growth in the retail sector, and creating a better environment for selling pears, he added.

The Pear Bureau Northwest promotes pears in 36 markets, and receives federal Market Access Program funding to –supplement its assessment-based revenue. For the 2007-2008 crop year, the Pear Bureau received a record $3.4 million in Market Access Program funds, which was $1 million more than the previous year.