view current print edition




Northwest pear crop looking perfect this season

by Lora Abcarian | August 16, 2009
Kevin Moffitt, president and chief executive officer of the Pear Bureau Northwest in Milwaukie, OR, said that the industry is preparing to market one of its better crops during 2009-10.

"We are expecting a large crop ranking in the top three," he told The Produce News in late July. "It will be a balanced manifest. I think we're going to see a big crop with a beautiful finish."

He characterized conditions during the growing season as relatively non- eventful, and said, "This isn't a bad thing. The growing season during the winter was good." And he said that the April blossom period was good. Temperatures popped into triple digits in July, but he went on to say, "We're not expecting any prolonged heat that will affect the crop. We'll have a nice, clean crop."

Mr. Moffitt said that cool weather during the spring will delay the harvest by three to five days from normal timetables.

Although there has been some decrease in pear production acreage due to pressures from the housing industry and increased production for grapes and blueberries, Mr. Moffitt said that the per-acre yield for pears continues to increase.

Additional plantings for red Anjou and green Bartlett pears are also coming into bearing this season. "It takes 10 years to get a full crop out of pear trees," he said. Both varieties are expected to be record-setters this year.

This season, the Pear Bureau Northwest estimated total production for all pear varieties at 19,134,600 standard boxes, an increase of 11 percent from the 2008-09 crop year. Organic pears comprise 4 percent of the annual crop at this point, and Mr. Moffitt said that organic production will continue to increase in the coming years. Green Bartlett and green Anjou represent 80 percent of organic production, and he said that a total of 780,000 boxes of organic pears will be marketed this season.

Actual fresh pear pick dates are keyed to the Pacific Northwest's four growing regions. The Starkrimson harvest begins in early to mid-August, and Bartlett follows during the middle of the month. The harvest for Comice and red varieties begins toward the end of August and early September. Anjous are harvested in early September, and Bosc is harvested in early to mid- September. The Seckel harvest begins in late August orearly September. Forelles and Concords are harvested at various times in September. Other pear varieties are harvested in mid-September.

"I hope consumer spending will increase to take advantage of this outstanding crop," Mr. Moffitt said. "We're seeing more demand not only in domestic markets but in export markets." The United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Germany, Asia and Mexico have historically been strong markets for pears from the United States.

Dan Wohlford, national sales representative for Oneonta Starr Ranch Growers, said that the Wenatchee, WA-based company anticipates shipping between 2.7 million and 3 million boxes of pears this season. Since taking on sales for Diamond Fruit Growers in Odell, OR, last year, Oneonta Starr Ranch Growers has emerged among the larger pear shippers in the Northwest.

Also citing increased volume was Suzanne Wolter, marketing director for Rainier Fruit Co. in Selah, WA. Ms. Wolter said that Rainier is seeing continued growth in its conditioned pear program, particularly in the Anjous. In addition to bigger numbers in conventional pears this season, Rainier will also be shipping more organics as certified orchards come into production.

Bob Mast, vice president of marketing for Columbia Marketing International in Wenatchee, told The Produce News that the crop is of such exceptional quality that he anticipates it will generate considerable excitement about the pear category for growers and retailers.

Loren Queen, marketing and communications manger for Domex SuperFresh Growers in Yakima, WA, agreed, indicating that pear sizing will be a good mix, allowing producers to easily meet demand for their global customers.

(For more on Northwest pears, see the Aug. 17, 2009, issue of The Produce News.)