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Pear growers expect average yield this season

Pear growers in the Northwest expect the fresh and canning crops to be close to average but down from last year’s records.

Industry officials predict a harvest of roughly 18.7 million 44-pound boxes of pears for the fresh market from orchards in Washington and Oregon, according to a news release Thursday from the Northwest Pear Bureau in Milwaukie, Ore.

That would be about 13 percent smaller than last year’s 21.5-million box crop, a record high, when a hot summer right before the August harvest caused pears to swell up, making for extra-large fruit, said Christie Mather, a spokeswoman for the bureau.

“This is a correction of that,” Mather said. Pear trees, like apple trees, typically follow alternating cycles; one year has high yields and the next has lower.

The 2014 estimate comes in only 6 percent below the five-year average of almost 20 million boxes.

Just like cherries, pears are off to an early start this year due to a warm spring, Mather said.

Growers in the Yakima Valley have circled Aug. 4 on their calendars as their projected first pick date, Mather said. Starkrimson and Bartlett varieties will be the first off the trees.

Meanwhile, the Northwest’s canned pear industry expects a drop from last year’s volume. Growers predict they will send roughly 114,000 tons of pears to the region’s three canneries, down from last year’s 215,000 tons, according to an estimate by the Washington-Oregon Canning Pear Association, based in Yakima.

In Washington, pears have been declining in acreage as growers switch from canning pears to more lucrative fresh-market varieties, said Jay Grandy, president of the association.

Overall, state pear acreage decreased 13 percent to 22,229 acres from 2007 to 2012, according to the most recent U.S. Department of Agriculture statistics.

Almost the entire drop is in Bartletts, the state’s most common variety and the only kind used in the canning industry. In places, growers are tearing out 100-year-old Bartlett trees to replace them with other varieties, said Grandy.

Canneries don’t want to see their supply dry up. “Del Monte is trying to prevent that from happening,” he said.

Over the winter, Del Monte Foods in Yakima boosted the price it will pay growers from a contracted $272 per ton to $300 per ton, Grandy said. The other two canneries — Seneca Foods in Sunnyside and Northwest Packing in Vancouver, Wash. — have agreed to do the same.

Source: yakimaherald.com

Publication date: 6/9/2014


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