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Northwest pear growers forecast a full-size crop

During annual pear meetings that took place last week in Portland, representatives of the Northwest pear industry met to project the size of the 2014 fresh pear harvest and review program strategies and tactics for the coming season. With reports of a crop of excellent quality from the Pacific Northwest growing regions of Wenatchee and Yakima, WA, and Mid-Columbia and Medford in Oregon, the total projection is showing approximately 18.7 million standard 44-pound box equivalents (or 411,400 tons) of pears for the fresh market. Pears in the Kitchen-LGThis year's Northwest pear crop is expected to be down slightly but with excellent quality.This estimate is 6 percent smaller than the five-year average and 13 percent smaller than last year’s record crop.

Harvest is expected to be a few days earlier than last season, beginning in late July with the Starkrimson and Bartlett pear varieties. Anjou, Red Anjou, Bosc, Comice, Concorde, Forelle and Seckel will be picked from late August through mid-October. Growers are expecting excellent quality fruit, with no significant weather issues affecting the crop to date.

The top three varieties in terms of production remain the same as in previous years; Green Anjou pears are anticipated to make up 53 percent of the total 2014 crop, and Bartlett and Bosc pears are expected to yield 23 percent and 14 percent respectively.

Green Anjou pears are showing a projected decrease of 14 percent when compared to 2013, which makes for a Green Anjou crop size that is 8 percent smaller than the five-year average. Bartlett pears are expected to decrease by 12 percent when compared to last season’s large crop, making a crop yield for Bartletts will be right on target with the five-year average. Growers anticipate that the Bosc pear crop will decrease by 17 percent compared to 2013. The size of the Red Anjou pear crop is expected to decrease by 8 percent, yielding a crop of average size.

Projections for the organic portion of the Northwest pear crop show a total of 870,775 standard 44-pound box equivalents (19,157 tons) of organic pears in the 2014 harvest, a decrease of 8 percent when compared to the 2013 record organic crop, and a 4 percent increase over the five-year average. The Bartlett and Green Anjou remain the most abundant two organic pear varieties, with the Green Bartlett estimated at 311,150 organic standard 44-pound box equivalents, and the Green Anjou projected yield at 254,000 for 2014.

“While last year yielded the largest crop on record, this year’s crop is looking to be more in line with the five-year average,” Kevin Moffitt, Pear Bureau Northwest’s president and chief executive officer, said in a press release. “We haven’t had any major weather issues to date, and the industry is expecting a crop of excellent quality and fruit size to meet the demands of the domestic and export markets. We have a full season of promotions planned, as well as consumer advertising, social media and PR to continue to raise consumer awareness and spur demand.”

Key areas in this season’s domestic marketing program include the launch of a new advertising campaign to help raise awareness about pear ripening and recipe 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 has commissioned new research and will continue to use its comprehensive, proprietary pear category data to custom-tailor merchandising and promotional plans for retailers nationwide.

“Retailers want data showing them how their sales compare to their competitors along with merchandising ideas and solutions. Our domestic team provides actionable data and marketing solutions to help retailers improve their pear categories,” Moffitt said.

An integrated PR and communications program supports retail promotions with ongoing activities emphasizing nutrition and recipe promotion to both consumers and foodservice. The website for USA Pears, www.usapears.org, will undergo a redesign that will help continue to grow the online presence for USA Pears, including among social media outlets.

The Pear Bureau will engage in export promotions in 38 countries worldwide, with 18 international marketing representatives coordinating promotions for USA Pears with activities targeted for each country’s market. The top export markets for USA Pears will remain Mexico, Canada, Russia, Brazil, Colombia, the UAE, and China and India, which are two of the strongest growth markets for the industry. A USA Pear Road Show activity is planned at the start of the season in China. The Road Show will be an interactive learning center and mobile billboard for USA Pears in Guangzhou, Shanghai and Beijing.

The Pear Bureau will also continue its partnership with Fox Pictures and Universal Pictures in conducting joint promotions in Mexico and Central America. During these promotions, the Pear Bureau helps promote a kid-friendly movie like Despicable Me or Epic via billboards and in-store promotions. In return, the Pear Bureau receives usage rights of the characters for the billboards, point-of-sale materials and bags. In addition, season-long marketing programs will be customized for retailers in Mexico, using the Pear Bureau’s proprietary pear category data system, which provides insights specific to the Mexican market. A joint promotion with the children’s television program "LazyTown" will be conducted in Russia.