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“Red Conference offers good prospects”

Growers and traders feel positive about the future of red pear varieties. The rosy fruits are becoming ever more popular.

Search for the perfect pear
Right now, a lot of tests are being done with Red Conference, a mutant of the well-known Conference pear. Staay Food Group bought the rights for the Dutch market. The Belgische Fruitveiling did the same for Belgium.

Filip Lowette, general manager of Belgische Fruitveiling: “In recent years there’s been a massive search for a profitable red pear. There’s much demand for it right now. We think we’ve found this in Red Conference.” Filip explains that Red Conference’s DNA is almost identical to that of the green variant. The only difference is the peel’s colour. Filip: “This makes the pear very suitable for a large market. Green Conference is known for its constant high production capacity, good flavour and long shelf life. If Red Conference turns out to have the same characteristics, it’ll be a wonderful product.”

It will take some time before Red Conference’s success is decided. Filip: “The first trees will probably be planted in 2019 or 2020. We’re now working with experimental trees. But we believe this variety can live up to our expectations.”

Chinese sales opportunities
The red pear is pre-eminently interesting for the Asian market. Filip: “There’s much demand for red pears in Asia, particularly in China. Eight years ago, we started there as pioneers, by selling Green Conference. We now export large amounts. We would like to do the same with Red Conference. The red pear is also much in demand on Western European markets.”

Other red varieties
Red Conference isn’t the only red pear variety traded by the Belgische Fruitveiling. Filip: “We also carry Sweet Sensation in our range. This is a mutant of Doyenne du Comice, which is known for its sensitivity of production fluctuations. Just as with Green and Red Conference, the pears have the same production characteristics. Sweet Sensation is therefore much more difficult to grow than Red Conference. The variety is particularly ill-equipped against frost.” Filip can’t say yet how easily the other red pear varieties can be grown on a large scale. “These developments are still in their infancy. With Red Conference, however, we expect very few problems. We’re very happy to have exclusivity in Belgium.”

Heiko Houweling, co-owner of Kwekerij Houweling from Boskoop, the Netherlands, can tell us more about the production of red pears. The nursery has nearly 200 different types of fruit trees in their assortment, including trees of some red pear varieties. Heiko: “Looking for pears with a red colour isn’t something new. These have been popular for some time now. Think of classic pears with a deep rosy colour, such as Verdi and Bonne Louise d’Avranches, or the Bloed pear, which has red flesh in addition to a red peel. These pear varieties aren’t suitable for commercial production, yield and quality are too low for this.”

“Varieties with a completely red peel, such as Red Williams, foe example, have also been available for a while now, and they’re very popular with our target audience. Red Williams is grown commercially in North America and Southern Europe a lot, but the Netherlands is too cold. Red colour mutations of pears such as Sweet Sensation and Red Conference, however, are very suitable for commercial production.”

Unknown, unloved
Heiko: “The more unknown the variety, the fewer trees are sold. The Bloed pear and the Verdi, also called Sweet Blush due to its rosy blush, are doing less well on the market than well-known Gieser Wildeman. Our customers also tend to choose self-pollinating trees, and therefore often choose the same varieties.”

Challenges for production
Red pears can’t be grown everywhere. Heiko: “Good soil is essential. Pear trees grow best in loamy soil or in a combination of sand and clay. Peat is too acidic, and, for example, here in Boskoop the soil is too wet because it used to be a swamp. The trees don’t like dry sandy soil either. It makes their leaves too weak.” Besides finding the right soil, pesticides are also a challenge for pear trees. Heiko: “Due to regulations regarding organic pesticides, it’s become much more difficult to protect the trees. Pear trees are sensitive to rust in particular.”

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