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Kris Wouters, Fruit Shop Wouters:

"For QTee, we only expect a 70 per cent yield, but PiqaBoo seems to get away with it"

Hail, frost, persistent rain and most recently the pseudomonas bacterium; Belgian pear growers have had to face a lot, this growing season. These months are no picnic, yet many seem to have pulled through reasonably well. "The weather we have had was really incredible. We expect a yield of between 70 and 80 per cent for the QTee® compared to 'normal' years, but remarkably, the PiqaBoo® seems to have largely gotten away with it," Kris Wouters of Fruithandel Wouters told us.

In recent days, the experienced trader had some fellow QTee growers visiting from France to assess the situation. "France seems to do slightly better, as they are expecting 80 to 90 per cent of a regular yield anyway. The weather we have had here seems to have extended a bit to the rest of Europe, which is not that bad for southern France and Spain. It has been hot there, but not as extreme as previous years. Moreover, they have also had more rain than usual, so: more favourable weather conditions. In fact, Spain expects a similar harvest compared to last year, also because they have young trees coming into production there. The old trees seem to be producing slightly less. It is also notable that in Spain, Conference looks very poor. The biggest cause of this seems to be the warm weather last season, which resulted in very few flowers on the trees."

In Belgium, however, the rain continues unabated. "It keeps on raining. So for me, it is really still unclear as to when exactly we should start picking the QTee. Normally, we can predict this quite accurately, but this year the weather during and after flowering has been too bad. We had the earliest flowering ever, so one would expect it to be the earliest picking ever as well."

"Looking at the size of the pears at the moment, I still think all Belgian growers are hoping that we can pick a little later than predicted," Kris continued. "If a lot of small fruit is picked, we are more likely to go towards 70 per cent, because then you also pick less kilos per hectare. Fortunately, as with Conference, there are not very many fruits anywhere, so they will grow faster."

Understanding supermarkets
This all means that, volume-wise, there are concerns. However, qualitatively, Kris is actually reasonably confident about the new crop. "That all seems not too bad. I haven't seen hail really piercing the skin anywhere. Where there is strong hail, we still see some small dots, but you also have plots where you are almost not going to see it. Conference will show little to no damage. For other varieties, I don't expect any quality problems. So I hope the supermarkets will understand the situation, comprehending what growers have experienced this season."

Kris nevertheless confirms that there were more climatic challenges. "Actually, now comes the most dangerous period. If hail would fall now, it could well have a big impact on the pears, so let's hope this does not happen. It does get trickier, because it's something new every season."

No pseudomonas for PiqaBoo
"Young PiqaBoo trees are actually doing very well," Kris continues. "We only have two- and three-year-old trees, but again this year we are seeing a normal harvest. Of course, they have also experienced bad weather, but the main problematic factor is pseudomonas. The PiqaBoo, to my knowledge, seems to be the only variety that has not suffered from this. This is very surprising, because we know this fruit can get it, but somehow they were insensitive to it this year. In other varieties, we see infections like we have never seen before, but PiqaBoo seems to get away with it."

For more information:
Kris Wouters
Fruithandel Wouters
Kasteellaan 21
3454 Rummen, Belgium
+32 (0)475283696
[email protected]

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