The price for processing Bartlett pears grown in the Pacific Northwest has been set for the next three years.
Jay Grandy, manager of the Washington Oregon Canning Pear Association, announced that the two remaining Northwest processors that buy pears on the cash market—Del Monte Foods and Northwest Packing Company (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, does not buy on the cash market.
The canned pear deal is in flux with the bankruptcy of Snokist Growers in Yakima, which was the largest pear cannery in the country. Although the plant had a capacity for 60,000 tons of pears, it had been operating at only about 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. Pears were just part of Snokist’s fruit canning business, along with apples, pears, cherries, prunes, and peaches.
In addition, Truitt Brothers of Salem, Oregon, which processed around 22,000 tons of pears annually, has closed its pear facility and has arranged for its growers to shift to Northwest Packing based in Vancouver, Washington. Peter Truitt, who owns the business with his brother David, said the Northwest processed Bartlett crop has shrunk from about 200,000 tons a couple of decades ago to around 120,000 tons in recent years, leaving canners with excess capacity. Consolidation was needed in order to bring prosperity back to the industry and strengthen returns to growers.
Grandy said the agreement with the processors was reached far more easily this year than in the past. He felt that his association’s initial three-year proposal was a realistic one. Del Monte responded with a counter offer. Grandy then made a second proposal that both 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 explained. “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.”
Look for more articles about the changes in the canned pear industry in the July issue of Good Fruit Grower magazine.