Pacific Northwest pear forecast increases

Dan Wheat

Capital Press

The Pacific Northwest pear crop is about 1.5 million boxes larger than forecast in May but still smaller than last year's record which should offset loss of exports to Russia.

PORTLAND — The Pear Bureau Northwest has revised its estimate of the 2014 Pacific Northwest fresh pear crop upward to 20.2 million, 44-pound boxes.

The crop was estimated at 18.7 million boxes in late May but since then it became evident there is more fruit, said Kevin Moffitt, president of the Pear Bureau in Portland.

The new number is 2 percent larger than the five-year average but 6 percent smaller than the record 2013 crop, which was 21.6 million boxes.

Russia’s one-year ban of imported U.S. and European fruit and other goods in retaliation for western sanctions for Russia’s aggression in Ukraine, will affect pears much as it will apples, Bruce Grim, manager of Washington apple, pear and cherry marketing associations, has said.

The loss of PNW sales into Russia will have a direct impact, but Poland’s loss of Russia as its largest customer will be a bigger problem and have a ripple effect on the worldwide market, Grim and others have said.

Russia is the third largest export market for PNW pears at more than 535,000 boxes annually. China is a new and growing market.

Northwest marketers will try to ship more pears to China, South America and the Middle East, and the crop being 1.4 million fewer boxes than last season offsets the loss of Russia as an export market, Moffitt said.

Chile is looking more seriously at exporting pears to Russia, which may open other destinations for the PNW, said Randy Smith, a Cashmere, Wash., grower whose son markets for a Chilean company in China.

The PNW pear harvest began in late July with Starkrimson and Bartlett pears in Medford, Ore. D’Anjou, Red d’Anjou, Bosc, Comice, Concorde, Forelle and Seckel will be picked from late August through mid-October.

No significant adverse weather conditions have affected the crop so far, Moffitt said.

The varietal breakdown remains close to the same as in recent years with Green d’Anjou at 53 percent of the total crop, and Bartlett and Bosc expected to yield 22 percent and 15 percent, respectively.

The organic crop is estimated at 976,780 boxes, an increase of 3 percent from 2013 and a 16.6 percent increase over the five-year average.

Washington produces most of the nation’s pears, followed by Oregon. Together they account for 85 percent. California is third with 15 percent.

The Wenatchee Valley leads in d’Anjou. Bartlett picking is almost done in the Wenatchee and Yakima districts, going another week in higher elevations, Smith said. There will be a gap of a week between Bartlett and d’Anjou, he said.

The labor picture has been all right but is tight in the Wenatchee Valley, Smith said. It has been getting tighter every year, he said. The valley has lots of small growers who do not use H-2A guestworkers from Mexico. Pickers prefer apples because they are lighter than pears. Pear pickers grew scarce last year by the end of higher elevation d’Anjou harvest in the upper Wenatchee Valley.


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