The prospects for pears this season are generally positive, despite some countries like Spain, South Africa and China reporting issues with production due to adverse weather conditions, although in Spain this is somewhat compensated for with the high sugar levels, which were also seen in the Netherlands. In North America, the weather delayed the harvest but production levels seem unaffected, whilst Italy expects almost twice the harvest compared to last year despite the droughts. In Greece, growers faced struggles unrelated to the weather, as they struggle to find workers for the harvest. In Germany, demand for the popular fruit continues to grow, and in Argentina, the blow from the loss of the Russian market has been softened by increased exports elsewhere.
Netherlands: More pressure expected at start of marketing season
Whereas a large Dutch pear harvest was initially anticipated, across the board the kilos and size sorting are still disappointing and expectations had to be adjusted downwards. Nevertheless, Dutch traders are not negative about the marketing season. It is expected that especially at the start of the season there will be some pressure on the market from growers who need money and want to avoid high cooling costs. But the overall reasoning is that if this results in some lower prices and a lot of sales that this can only result in a rising market during the season. Incidentally, the price really has yet to set at this stage. Qualitatively, the pears are very good and, due to the many hours of sunshine, the high sugars in particular stand out.
The harvest of the new crop of Belgian pears is just about over. A trader says the pears there are generally of good quality, but there is a lot of variation in plots. "Qualitatively they actually look very good with us; a lot less Class II pears and the sugar content is also very high. You do see a big difference between plots. The stormy weather has had very localised dramatic effects on a number of growers, and the quality on non-irrigated plots, during the heat, is considerably less than the irrigated plots. We are fortunate to have had very good irrigation. Still, overall the pears will be as much as 5 to 10 mm smaller than last year." In terms of volumes, the trader estimates that there has been more harvest than last year.
A Belgian exporter expects that drought and later storms will mean fewer pears are suitable for long storage, creating a stress market. "Since a lot of the fruit will not be suitable for long storage, I expect it will lead to a lot of early sales. The fact that everything has to be sold at very short notice will create a certain pressure on the market. Last year we were able to sell through July, but this year it could be that some lots of Conference will not even make it to April. This will lead to a stress market at the beginning of the season. Moreover, towards the end of the season, it could lead to substantial shortages, which again is not desirable."
Germany: Increasing demand for pears and changes in assortment
There was some movement in the product range for pears this season: New additions were Dutch Gute Luise, meanwhile the relevance of Italian Santa Maria and Williams Christ increased. The importance of Turkish Santa Maria and German Gute Luise increased as well. In the meantime Conference from domestic cultivation entered the market, as well as Dutch and Belgian badges. On the other hand, German Clapps Liebling lost importance. Although there was a lot of change in the assortment, the demand could be met without difficulty. Prices therefore did not change significantly but remained at the level of the previous week. Overall, the demand is increasing as domestic soft- and stonefruit is losing importance, a wholesaler stresses.
France: Production doubled compared to last year and marketing two weeks ahead
As of September 1, 2022, French pear production is estimated at nearly 150,000 tons. Production doubled compared to 2021, a year strongly reduced by the spring frosts. The 2022 production is therefore expected to increase sharply and be close to its full potential. In the PACA region, the sizes of summer pears are high, for other varieties the sizes could be impacted by the drought. In the Rhone Valley, despite a reduction in size due to the heat wave and drought, pear production is expected to increase sharply over the year. In Languedoc and Roussillon, production is estimated to be up sharply over the year.
The marketing of pears for the 2022-2023 campaign starts this year 15 days ahead of schedule in August, in a market still occupied by other summer fruits. Pear prices are lower than in 2021. With high temperatures, consumption remains oriented towards summer fruits (peaches and apricots). Demand is currently low for pears, despite the high sugar content of the fruit.
Italy: Twice as many pears as last year expected despite droughts
In Italy, more than 470,000 tonnes of product are predicted for 2022, more than twice as much as last year. The pear campaign is advancing, after having been put to the test by a very long drought period that caused water stress on the plants and growth problems for the fruit. Italian pears have been caught in the grip of drought, diseases (such as Alternaria) and pests (such as the Brown marmorated stink bug).
On the Italian wholesale markets, there are several varieties of national origin: Abate Fetel, Carmen, Conference, Coscia, Williams, Max Red Bartlett. Depending on size, category and packaging, they start at 0.80 €/kg and go up to 2.00 €/kg.
A producer in the north of Italy reported that summer pear yields were lower than expected, but prices did not reflect this.
Pear production in the province of Ferrara was affected by adverse weather conditions in mid-August. Autumn pear varieties fell from the trees due to strong winds. In general, the sizes are not entirely satisfactory for the market, but they are better than last year and, with them, the yields.
A Sicilian grower says: “Despite the difficulties due to the rising production prices, we managed to fulfil all the necessary agronomic practices. In terms of labour, we have also fared well. The production of Coscia pears is good, thanks to the excellent fruit set in our reference plants. The weather did not give these crops much thought this year. Commercially, the product has been very well received with satisfactory sales at national retailers. At the Milan wholesale market, the prevalent price for Sicilian Coscia pears is around 1.60 €/kg.
According to data, pears were bought by 47.7% of Italian households in the last 12 months. Last year, the percentage was 57.3%. The average price, however, rose by almost 20% in the year ending July 2022: the average expenditure per act came to €2.47 for an average of 1.03 kg purchased.
Spain: Weather during growing season causes negative effects on Spanish pears
Spanish pear campaign is camping with many difficulties, mainly because of the production decrease, abundance of small sizes, fruit deformities and high costs. In Lleida, one of the biggest production areas in Spain, the production will be around 30-35% lower due to the damage caused by the frosts in April. Some areas have lost up to 60% of their production. The heat waves in June and July made an impact in the fruit sizes, which will be mainly small. Normally, between 60 and 65 centimeters were required for Conference pears but this year will be impossible to find enough volumes with those sizes and the retailers should aim to have between 55 and 60 centimeter pears. On the other hand, a considerably high number of pears have malformations due to the adverse climate conditions. Therefore, it will be complicated to get good prices both for growers and traders, given the high production costs, which have increased by 25-30% in one year, as well as the fruit conditions. Although pear sizes will generally be smaller this season as a result of the extreme heat, the fruit has a very good quality and is even sweeter according to the sector, that asks consumers to pay more attention this year to the taste rather than to their appearance. The reduction in the size of the fruit has been a general situation not only in the regions of Lleida, but throughout Catalonia, the rest of Spain and Europe.
In Navarra, for instance, the production could also fall by 30%. The decrease could range between 3.8 and 4.5 million kilos. It's worth noting that Navarra harvested 15.1 million kilos of pears in 2021. Pears from Navarra will also have smaller sizes because of the intense heat.
Greece: Good volumes, but struggle to find labour for harvest
The Greek pears have been harvested for the season. Quality wise, this season the Greek weather was favourable for pears. There were no major damages by frosts during blossom, which was our major issue last year. Moreover, there was no rainfall during the picking period, which lasted from 20/07 to 22/08, and the temperature didn’t exceed 35 degrees Celsius, thus there were no sunburned pears either.
Greece’s main varieties for export are Coscia, also known as Ercolini, and Santa Maria. They also offer Blanquilla pears, which are maybe not as known in the northern part of Europe. However, it’s the bestselling pear in the domestic market, and it’s highly appreciated in Israel as well. In terms of volumes, Greece work more with Santa Maria pears, and then Blanquilla. Coscia is a variety that’s not cultivated as much compared to previous years, because most growers replaced it with Santa Maria pears.
The major challenge for our growers up to this point was to find workers for the harvesting process. In every region in Europe, there is a significant lack of personnel for picking. This is no different for Greece, as most of the workers that were picking fruits last year, didn’t come to Greece at all.
South Africa: Lack of rain brings fears for South African pear growers
The first Early Bon Chretien pears are in full bloom in South African pear orchards, and in the colder areas Forelle and Abate Fetel pears are also blossoming.
South Africa’s pear exports have essentially ended by now, with 16.8 million 12.5kg cartons exported this season, over 2 million 12.5kg cartons more than 2021 (up by 13%). Pears (Forelle and Packhams, mostly) are still supplied to the domestic market.
Exports to Russia, a big market for pears, are down by 10% (2.5 million cartons were still sent there), while there was a 28% increase in pears to Europe, a 23% increase to the Far East and a 25% increase (from a very low base) to the Indian Ocean islands, probably as a result of tourism increasing again. There was also a 26% increase in pear exports to Africa and 17% increase to the Middle East.
The Langkloof, especially, had better yields this year and Forelle rose by 30% compared to last season.
There has been strong growth on the Celina (QTee) cultivar, with export volumes doubling year on year. There is also still good growth on the South African pear Cheeky.
Pear orchards in South Africa growers are somewhat worried at the amount of rain the Cape has had, as the rain started late, and fruit growers have been irrigating at times during winter (which they’d ideally like to avoid altogether, also given electricity costs).
South Africa’s long-awaited pear access to China is starting slowly with commercial trials with regards to packaging.
China: Prices of Huangguan pears increase by 50%
Huangguan pears and Ya pears are the main export varieties of Chinese pears. In Hebei, which is the main producing area of Chinese pears, after the harvesting season in July and August, the storage of Huangguan pears has been fully completed.
The Huangguan pear is an important variety for export, and it is very popular among overseas Chinese groups and local people. The volume of Huangguan pear exports has decreased this year, mainly due to the increased cost of pears and the decline in purchasing power in foreign markets.
This season, the production of Huangguan pears has decreased by about 25%, and the storage volume has decreased by about 15% compared with last year. Due to the decrease in production, the average price has increased by about 50% compared with the same period last year, and the increase in the initial price is even higher.
North America: Similar production expected despite delay in harvest
The pear harvest is underway in North America, with harvest currently taking place in four key regions in the Pacific Northwest-- Wenatchee, Yakima, Mid-Columbia and Medford.
The local industry body recently announced the first official estimate of the 2022-23 fresh pear crop for Washington and Oregon. The fresh pear estimate is 16.2 million standard box equivalents. While this is on par with the five-year average, which they say this is very close to last year’s production of 16,288,849 44# standard boxes.
Harvest started in mid-August for summer varieties like Starkrimson and Bartletts and growers are seeing a full range of sizes available, including large-sized fruit and smaller sizes to fill the popular pouch bags as well as sizes to fulfill export market demand. In early to mid-September, growers were also starting to pick Bosc, Green and Red Anjou pears. Specialty pears like Comice, Seckel, Forelle and Concorde pears will also be available in September. The bureau also reports that Green Anjous are slightly up this year, while Bosc and Red Anjou are each down a little.
The organic pear estimate is expected to come in at 1,823,000 million standard box equivalents. As a percentage of the crop, organic pears grew slightly from nine to 10 percent last year to about 11 percent this year.
Like apples, the pear harvest this year was also a few weeks later than normal due to prolonged cooler and wetter weather into April when trees were in bloom. Harvest is expected to finish in early to mid-October.
In terms of demand, some growers are reporting flat, domestic demand and are looking to revitalize the category this year with initiatives like more packaging such as fruit in bags, fixed-weight retail packaging and more. They’re also looking for more display opportunities and a move closer to the front of the store to increase awareness of pears.
For exports, the PNW pear industry will rely heavily on key export markets like Mexico, Canada and the Central American region to successfully move the 2022 crop.
Argentina: Shipments of Argentine pears to Russia down 43% up to June
Argentina is the largest producer of pears in the southern hemisphere and, with consolidated data up to 2020, the fourth largest producer of this fruit in the world; In the field of exports, 2 years ago it even climbed a position and was the third largest exporter of pears, only behind China and the Netherlands.
In the country, as reported by the national industry body in its 2021 Yearbook with data from Senasa, in the provinces of Río Negro and Neuquén there are more than 1,500 producers who cultivate 18,260 hectares where Williams pears are mostly produced. which represent 40.5% of the area in production, followed by Packham's Triumph (29.2% of the total) and Beurre D'anjou (14.7%).
In 2021, Brazil was the main destination for Argentine pears, with a share that represented almost a third of total exports - taking into account the data provided in the CAFI report, 32% - followed by Russia, which with the acquisition of 73,600 tons concentrated 24.2% of pear shipments. For this reason, given the importance of this market for regional fruit growing, the war started by Russia in Ukraine has left a great impact on export activity. And the official statistics confirm it.
With data up to June 2022, Argentine pear exports have fallen by 16% compared to the same period of the previous year, totaling 201,090 tons, largely dragged down by the 43% drop in pear exports to Russia, which went from 65,622 tons in the first half of 2021 to 37,680 tons in 2022. Although, considering shipment volumes, this drop -only exceeded by the setbacks in shipments to China and Ecuador, which although they are minority destinations, contracted their participation by 64 and 65% - is offset by the notable increase in the reception of fruit in Europe and the East, where the volumes that could not reach the Russian market were presumably diverted.
Specifically, the Netherlands increased the volumes purchased of Argentine pears by 45%, Germany by 39%, Spain by 36% and France by 17%, while purchases from Israel rose by 51% and in the United Arab Emirates climbed by 96%.
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