With the start of the 2012-13 pear season only weeks away, the Pear Bureau Northwest in Milwaukie, OR, is already excited about crop prospects and export opportunities. “We’re coming off a great export year,” International Marketing Director Jeff Correa told The Produce News July 23. “We’re on pace for a record year with volume and size.”
Looking at the coming crop, Mr. Correa said, “The weather has been good. And from what we’re hearing, we’re on track [with the latest pear estimate]. We will have a normal bell curve this season.” Mr. Correa added that pear sizing for the upcoming season could be slightly larger.
A total of 168,000 metric tons of pears have been sold to export markets under the USA Pears banner during the 2011-12 season. “Mexico is still the dominant market,” Mr. Correa said. “Mexican imports increased substantially. We’re on pace for record value for that market.” He said the removal of the 20-percent tariff helped tremendously.
“We had big promotions to help retailers keep the crop moving,” he went on to say. The Lazy Town promotion, which occurred from October through November, was a success. Lazy Town is a live-action animated show for children. The program includes in-store promotions, sampling, co-op ads, purchase incentives, point-of-sale material and technical seminars on proper storage and handling.
Two new promotions saw USA Pears partnering with cinema giant 20th Century Fox. The first promotion occurred toward the end of December 2011 and concluded in January. “We helped promote Alvin and the Chipmunks,” Mr. Correa stated. The promotion, which he termed a success, included billboards, in-store activities and social media. “It helped increase our Facebook fans,” he added.
Ice Age 4, another Fox movie, was co-promoted in June and July. “Consumers could get their photos taken with Ice Age figures and upload them to Facebook,” Mr. Correa said.
“Canada is our second-largest export market,” he continued, adding that America’s northerly neighbor accounts for 55 percent of all pear exports from the Pacific Northwest.
Other export markets continue to grow. While volume going to Brazil has been solid, Mr. Correa said the current season saw some problems during arrival. “This could have some lingering negative effects,” he noted. At the current time, there are only two ports in Brazil receiving American pears. “We are looking to expand at some other ports,” Mr. Correa noted. “The industry needs to find out what the best practices are in terms of sending fruit.”
There was a dip in volume exported to Russian markets during 2011-12. He attributed the cause to the availability of European pears in Russia. According to Mr. Correa, the western and eastern Russian markets are very different from each other, and USA Pears treats them as distinct markets. “The Russian Far East continues to be a good market for us,” he stated.
Looking at the Pacific Rim, Mr. Correa said, “Hong Kong is our best market in the Pacific Rim.” Importers in Hong Kong also move product into China, and Mr. Correa said this explains why that market has grown over the past four to five years.
Mr. Correa said the market in Taiwan is mature and flat, and approximately 120,000 boxes of pears are exported. “It’s a good market for us for red pear varieties,” he commented.
A new record for exports to India was set during 2011-12. “India is one of our best growth markets,” he said of destinations in Southeast Asia. A total of 150,000 boxes were exported. “As the cold chain improves, we expect expansion,” he added.
The Middle East is another good growth market, especially for smaller-sized pears. Last season, approximately 10 containers of pears were exported to the region. “There is greater consumer acceptance of Red Anjou,” Mr. Correa continued. “Consumers there had never seen a fully red pear before.” He sees additional opportunities to introduce other varieties such as Bosc and Comice in the coming years.
USA Pears garnered record sales in the South American markets of Columbia, Ecuador and Peru. He expects South American markets to grow as free market agreements are implemented.
“Tariffs can price consumers out of the market,” he commented.