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California eyes lighter pear crop

Dan Wheat

Capital Press

California will begin picking a lighter pear crop July 7 and it promoting its Bartlett as the first harvested in the nation each year.

California anticipates a lighter pear crop this year and is promoting its Bartlett as “America’s First Pear.”

California Bartlett are the first pears harvested in the nation every year and are unique because their commercialization dates back to the California Gold Rush of the 1850s, Chris Zanobini, executive director of the California Pear Advisory Board in Sacramento, said in a news release.

The advisory board adopted “America’s First Pear,” as a new brand at a recent meeting.

Bartlett harvest will start July 7 in the Sacramento River region. More will come from Mendocino County starting Aug. 4 and Lake County on Aug. 11.

California’s total fresh pear crop is estimated at 3.14 million, 36-pound boxes which is less than crops of the last five years. The peak in that time was 4.69 million in 2009. California produces 15 percent of the nation’s pears. Washington and Oregon produce 85 percent.

California’s fresh crop is down because fruit set is down 10 to 20 percent, acreage has decreased and canners are paying more money and taking more pears, said Mike Naumes, president and CEO of Naumes Inc., Medford, Ore.

Despite the decrease, the crop is still a “decent, solid” crop, he said.

Naumes sold 2,000 acres of orchards in Marysville and Gridley, Calif., last October. That resulted in the removal of about 720 acres of pear trees that will be planted to kiwi in the future, he said.

That loss in acres has not been made up elsewhere and had a big impact on Seckel, Golden Russet Bosc, regular Bosc, French Butter, Starkrimson and some Bartlett, Naumes said.

Canners have had less tonnage as more pears have gone to the fresh market in recent years, he said. Now they are paying more to win tonnage back and this year settled negotiations early for a 10 percent increase at $380 per ton for 2.75-inch-diameter and larger, Naumes said. They increased 20 to 30 percent, up to $290 per ton, for pears 2.375 to 2.5 inches in diameter, he said.

Of the 3.14 million boxes, 2.6 million will be Bartlett, which is down slightly from a four-year average of 2.9 million, Zanobini said in his news release. Of the 2.6 million, 1.5 million comes from the early-harvesting Delta River district. The estimate is for 220,000 boxes of Golden Russet Bosc, 80,000 Starkrimson and 40,000 Bosc.

The CPAB has become a regular sponsor of “America’s Farm to Fork Capital,” a program in Sacramento promoting locally grown agricultural commodities. An independent firm, hired by CPAB, found more than 90 percent of California’s pear farmers use sustainable practices like pheromone-mating disruption in place of pesticides for pests.

California Bartlett are grown by about 60 pear farmers, most of whom have been growing pears on the same land for generations and are trusted and safe, Zanobini said.



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