The William's pear harvest has started in a large part of the Rio Negro and Neuquen Valley. It is a complex season, as the spring frosts and hail have caused small and medium producers to lose 30 to 50% of their harvest.
It's worth noting that integrated companies only lost, on average, 5% to 15% of their production. The differences in damage are fundamentally due to the investments made by the fruit companies in terms of sprinkler irrigation for frost control, and plot roofing to reduce the incidence of hail.
There are no official statistics in this regard, but the first private estimates – which will be adjusted as the season unfolds – are that the sector will harvest nearly 200,000 tons of William's pear in the 2021 season, i.e. nearly 80,000 tons less than the consolidated projections for the previous harvest.
The key question, however, is how much of this harvest can reach the fresh market, taking into account the damage that the frost has caused to the fruit? The answer is directly linked to how permissive the packages are for packing third-quality fruit, which will be the one that presents the characteristic ringing damage.
One of the juice companies in the region has already gone on the market promising to buy pears with a floor of 13 pesos per kilo. Producers infer that this value may increase as the season advances and there is more demand for fruit for grinding. In the current scenario, more than one non-integrated farmer is analyzing if they have a lot of damage in their William's production to make a single harvest pass and allocate everything to the industry.
They are evaluating this alternative as harvesting all in one pass would allow them to save up to 50% in collection costs and because they would receive the money from their sales in no more than 90 days, which is how juicers traditionally pay. Harvesting selectively for an exporter almost doubles labor costs in the farms, and, on the other hand, the producer would be receiving payment for the sale of that fruit in average instalments of 10 monthly instalments.
The producer's decision to harvest all of the William's for disposal or to work for the shed will surely depend on the prices that the industry ends up paying per kilo of pear and the tolerance levels set by the businessmen on the fruit that arrives at the shed.