In the second vote this week, the Northwest pear industry reversed itself to approve marketing order changes that would set stricter quality standards on early season Anjous.
On Friday, the Fresh Pear Committee board approved changes to the marketing order — a “step in the right direction,” said Ed Weathers, president of Duckwall Fruit and the committee’s chair. The same proposal narrowly failed in a committee meeting on Tuesday, but continued conversation resulted in some board members changing their position to support.
The industry self-regulation aims to improve the quality of Anjous that reach consumers, to try to rebuild demand and prices — an issue the industry has been grappling with for several years.
The concern is that too many consumers end up disappointed with Anjous that don’t ripen properly because they have been shipped too soon, before the fruit has the necessary time in cold storage to trigger ripening. Those early season mistakes “poison the market,” for the rest of the fruit the industry wants to ship during the season, said Mike Taylor, vice president of sales and marketing for Stemilt Growers, at the Tuesday meeting. “The spirit of both these recommendations is not to harm our markets.”
The approved changes would reduce the firmness standards for fruit entering the market before November 1, from 14 pounds to 13, and eliminate a loophole that allowed shippers to move 8,000 pounds of fruit exempt from the standards. The marketing order already specified that fruit needs to have a core temperature at 35 degrees or less and pressure test of 14 pounds or less to be marketed before November 1.
Growers who recently formed their own advocacy group to push the pear industry to be more proactive on quality and prices supported a second option, which also prevented any Anjou sales before October 1, to ensure the fruit has proper chilling time. But several shippers opposed that option, saying that if their fruit was ready to ripen by firmness metrics, they wanted to be able to ship it earlier.
Prior to the vote, grower Ray Schmitten urged the board to listen to growers. “We’re really willing to take the risk of slower movement up front to make sure our product is edible when it reaches the store,” he said. “If it’s a smaller step, fine, but we have to make a step.”
“I hope we consider this step number one, not the finish line,” Weathers said.
A previous Good Fruit Grower web story about Tuesday’s vote has been edited to reflect the updated information.
Proposal for Anjou quality standards narrowly fails on Tuesday
A northwest pear industry proposal to change its marketing order to set Anjou quality standards failed in a close vote during a special session of the Pear Bureau’s annual meeting, held this week via webinar.
On Tuesday, a subcommittee of the bureau’s Fresh Pear Committee presented two recommendations for industry self-regulation to improve the quality of Anjous that reach consumers, to try to rebuild demand and prices — an issue the industry has been grappling with for several years.
Both recommendations included firmness standards for fruit entering the market before November 1, but the second prevented sales before October 1 entirely.
The first proposal, setting firmness standards for earlier season fruit, had more support across the Fresh Pear subcommittee, but the yes votes represented 77 percent of the industry’s Anjou production, short of the 80 percent needed for the measure to pass.
It was a disappointing result, according to many at the virtual meeting.
“This committee is failing growers,” said Yesenia Sanchez Oates, a Hood River, Oregon, grower who helped form the advocacy group last year. “It’s failing to address a huge concern while growers are going bankrupt.”
The “disappointing” vote is not the end of the issue, however, said Ed Weathers, president of Duckwall Fruit and the committee’s chair, after the meeting. The close votes show the industry is building consensus — albeit, not enough yet — on the issue.
“We will continue to move forward on the quality of our product to return growers to profitability,” he said. “We’re closer than we’ve ever been.”
The conversation about how to improve Anjou quality is expected to continue at Friday’s meeting of the Fresh Pear subcommittee, held via Zoom.
—by Kate Prengaman
—Pear industry ripe for a rescue