It’s an unusual year for California pears. “It’s a market that we’ve never really seen before,” says Kyle Persky of Rivermaid Trading Company. “The processing demand from the canners in California is unprecedented in the amount of tonnage they’re trying to attain. That’s put price pressure on the fresh market for comparable returns. We’ve seen consistent pricing from the beginning of the pear harvest which was in early July and that hasn’t really changed much.”
While it’s difficult to know why there’s so much particular demand this year for processing pears, Persky notes that there have been some orchard removals in the state and the industry has gone through attrition in the last few years. “And the remaining processors have recognized the need to keep Bartlett pear trees in the ground. We need to keep Bartlett growers in business,” he says.
Smaller pears are more scarce
Overall pear tonnage is also down slightly from last year which could contribute to that stronger processing demand. The demand has also impacted sizing. “I’ve seen selling California pears for 20 years and for the first time, I’m out of 100s and smaller and it’s the middle of the season. We’ll have some of those sizes again when we get into Mendocino County but right now, there are not many small pears around,” says Persky.
Currently, Rivermaid Trading is at the end of Bartlett pear production from the River pear region (Sacramento River Delta) and it’s now packing Golden Bosc pears in all three of its packing sheds. It will start Bartlett harvest from the Mountain District (Lake Mendocino County) today.
In the coming weeks, the Pacific Northwest region will also start with its pear harvest.
All of this pressure, plus factoring in increased costs such as packaging, has affected pricing. “The combination of the two factors means we have to keep the price higher than it’s been in previous seasons. It also means prices need to stay there so looking ahead, I see a steady market,” says Persky.
Collectively, it’s all made marketing California pears different this year. “We typically try to hit a certain amount of volume every week to be out at a certain time. But I don’t feel that pressure to move volume this year,” says Persky.