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Northwest pear growers looking at rebound year

by (Press Release) | June 08, 2011

As the branches of Washington and Oregon's pear trees continue to grow heavy with fruit, the Northwest pear industry is projecting a 2011 harvest of approximately 19.2 million standard 44-pound box equivalents, or 422,166 tons, of pears. This estimate is approximately 5 percent larger than the five-year average, and 8 percent larger than last year's short crop.

Harvest is anticipated to begin one to two weeks later than normal due to cool and wet weather conditions this spring, starting in mid-to-late August with the Starkrimson variety being picked first followed by other summer and fall varieties such as the Bartlett. Winter pear varieties such as the Anjou, Bosc, Comice, Concorde, Forelle and Seckel will be picked from early September through mid-October.

The quality of the fruit looks excellent, with no significant issues affecting the crop to date.

Green Anjou pears, the most abundantly grown variety in the Pacific Northwest, are showing a projected increase of 6 percent when compared to 2010, which is a 7 percent increase compared to the five-year average.

A number of other pear varieties are experiencing significant growth when compared to last season: growers are expecting the Bosc pear crop to increase by 27 percent over last year's total, and the Comice variety is predicted to be up by 36 percent. Red-skinned pears like the Red Anjou and Red Bartlett are estimated to increase by 7 percent and 10 percent, respectively.

The top three varieties in terms of production remain the same as in previous years. Green Anjou pears are anticipated to make up 54 percent of the total 2011 crop, while Bartlett and Bosc pears are expected to yield 19 percent and 15 percent, respectively.


Growth in organics

In terms of organic pear production, projections show that the Pacific Northwest will continue its overall growth trend this season with a total of 737,000 standard 44-pound box equivalents, or 16,214 tons, of organic pears in the 2011 harvest -- an increase of 2.3 percent when compared to 2010 and a 14 percent increase over the five-year average. The Green Anjou and Bartlett varieties remain the two most abundant organic pear varieties, with the Green Anjou projected yield at 352,324 organic standard 44-pound box equivalents, and the Green Bartlett estimated at 187,900 44-pound box equivalents for 2011.

With this full crop of excellent quality, Kevin Moffitt, president and chief executive officer of the Pear Bureau Northwest, said that he is confident the marketing programs planned for the forthcoming season will be effective in helping to move the crop.

"We have a wealth of effective, targeted promotions on tap to market this crop across the U.S. and around the globe," Mr. Moffitt said in a June 7 press release. "Pears continue to be a popular fruit choice among consumers the world over, and our programs are poised to help increase demand and consumption while helping to ensure success for retailers and foodservice operators."

Key areas in this season's domestic marketing program include an increased emphasis on consumer marketing and advertising to help raise awareness about pear ripening and usage, and a strong season-long retail push beginning with tactics to support the crop as soon as marketable volumes are available.

The Pear Bureau will continue to use its comprehensive, proprietary pear category data to custom-tailor merchandising and promotional plans for retailers nationwide. An integrated public relations and communications program enhances ongoing activities with media outreach, recipe development for both consumers and foodservice, and by continuing to grow the on-line presence for pears on and among social media outlets, including a new mobile web site that will help shoppers take advantage of QR code technology at retail.

The Pear Bureau will engage in export promotions in 39 countries worldwide, with 18 international marketing representatives coordinating promotions for U.S. pears with activities targeted for each country's market.

With the current season's success in export markets due to economic recovery in many countries, along with the U.S. dollar remaining in positive trading range, the Pear Bureau Northwest will carry this momentum into the forthcoming season.

The top export markets for U.S. pears will remain Mexico, Canada, Russia, Brazil, Colombia, the United Arab Emirates, Hong Kong and India, which is one of the stronger growth markets for the industry.

Special promotions planned include the "Lazy Town" promotion in Mexico and the U.S. Fresh Fruit Showcase, which successfully launched in India and Indonesia two seasons ago and will now be adopted for the Singapore market and potentially China if U.S. pears are granted access during this season.

This activity will include in-store promotions with key retailers in each of the targeted countries as well as PR events for consumers.

The "Lazy Town" Promotion will include in-store promotional activities involving the "Lazy Town" kids' television show characters, TV advertorials and special point-of-sale materials for participating retailers.

In addition, season-long marketing programs will be customized for retailers in Mexico, using the bureau's proprietary pear category data system, which provides insight specific to the Mexican market.