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Smaller but better crop of pears to come from WashingtonThe late season heat has had a slight impact on the Pacific Northwest pear crop.
“Because of a cooler spring and a hot late summer, we did begin the pear harvest 2-3 weeks later than the last couple seasons,” says Randy Hartmann of Bellevue, Wash.-based Pacificpro and ProducePipeline.com, which sources pears from the Hood River region of Oregon and north through Yakima, Peshastin and Wenatchee, Wash. At the same time, the cool spring and hot late summer may also have influenced the supply of pears from the region. “The crop was estimated to be around 17.5 million cases which is two per cent off from last season and approximately 10 per cent from the five-year average,” says Hartmann. “The decrease is thought to be due to the hot summer temps that may have increased fruit drop although some growers believe it’s a result of the cold winter and early spring.”
Sizing slightly off?
This year the harvest began in mid-August with Bartlett and Starkrimson varieties, which continue to have good availability. “Most growers started harvesting D’Anjou and Bosc this week and we’re building up supplies and should have good inventories to meet demand in a couple weeks through early spring,” says Hartmann. “Bartlett and D’Anjou are projected to be on pace with last season but Bosc likely will be off.” At the same time, while the quality is strong, the sizing could also be slightly off. “The cooler spring temperatures and hot late season temperatures could result in peak sizing off one to two sizes from last year,” he adds.
And even though conventional pears are off slightly from projections, organic pears are a different story. “Pear growers expect to see a substantial increase in organic pear volume, a trend also being experienced in the northwest apple crop and one expected to continue in the Northwest growing region,” he says.
Stronger pear pricing?
While prices are starting out similar to previous seasons with $30+ on US#1 D’Anjou, Bartlett and Bosc 90ct and larger, the smaller projected crop could push prices higher. “Because of the peak sizing likely being one to two sizes smaller than last season, that could impact pricing on the larger sizes 60-90ct due to shorter supply,” he says. “These are the sizes most retailers use. But we expect them to settle in the mid to high $20 range within a few weeks and 100ct and smaller to be in line with the last couple seasons.”
While California still has some supplies of Bartlett and Bosc pears available causing crossover for the Washington region—an issue that usually clears up within a couple weeks of the Northwest pear harvest starting—Washington should have most pears in storage within a few weeks. “At that point we will have a better overall picture of the crop size, the percentage each individual variety will compose of the total crop, and average sizing,” says Hartmann.
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