Salvi also confirms the increasing difference between big (65+) and small (65-) grades for Conference or William pears. The same is happening for Abate, although at higher grades (70+ and 70-). "European retailing has definitely evolved in the last few years, especially as regards Abate pears. In Southern France and Scandinavia they prefer grades between 65-70, Italy and Germany prefers 70-75 and 75-80 and Russia goes over 80."
"Placing Abate pears directly in two different packets according to grades is easier and it enables us to sell 55/65 grade pears directly in wooden crates in Italy, without further handling."
"Therefore, we are already following what Jos Creamers suggested at the Veiling Borgloon auction i.e. harvest Abate from 65 upwards and Conference from 60 upwards. This way, we guarantee high quality but give up part of the production - in fact, yields are 20-30 tonnes per hectare compared to the 40-50 tonnes of Belgium and the Netherlands. If Belgium did the same, we would have less produce on the market but with a better quality."
The export manager of a well-known Italian company adds that "what Mr. Creamers said is only partially true. In years when the produce is scarce, for example last year, all grades are welcome and prices don't change that much. In overproduction years or when the market is overstocked (as is happened this year with summer fruit, as it was available for longer than usual and delayed the sale of winter fruit) it is indeed bigger grades and better looking fruit that make the difference. This is the reason behind demand for bigger grades and higher prices."
"Differences between countries must also be taken into account. Russia, for example, is used to big grades, perhaps because of its higher purchasing power."
"This year there is a lot of medium-small fruit coming from all over Europe, so of course developing countries and those with higher purchasing power look for top-of-the-range produce. Obviously the presence of medium-small grades is important and it must be supported."
The export manager of another leading company also agrees with Jos Creamers.
"Auctions have to deal with this situation more than companies that supply supermarkets. Demand has been oriented towards bigger grades for Conference, Kaiser, Abate and Decana pears for 5-6 years now, both from Russia and Europe in general. This is stressed by the difference in price between 55-65 and 70+ grades. It must be also said though, that each variety has its own prices. Only North African and Maghreb countries demand 55-65 grades, mostly because of their prices."
"Italian companies have equipped themselves to have higher grades and differentiate harvests, so that sale and packaging are easier."