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Seneca purchase revives group

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Canning Pear Association's future looks brighter, manager says


Capital Press

YAKIMA, Wash. -- The Washington-Oregon Canning Pear Association apparently has a firmer future with Seneca Foods, Marion, N.Y., completing its purchase of Independent Foods, a tree fruit processing plant near Sunnyside.

There was no discussion of dissolving the Yakima-based Canning Pear Association at the organization's annual meeting Feb. 19, said Jay Grandy, association manager.

"With Seneca in the picture it gives us three cash buyers, which makes our future certainly more clear than if we only had two," Grandy said.

"I haven't gotten any signals or communications that makes me think there is not a place for our association in the future," he said.

In his newsletter last September, Grandy invited members to voice their opinions to board members about the future of the association since the number of processors the association negotiates prices with had shrunk from three to two. Grandy noted, at the time, that there's no Northwest bargaining association for apple and cherry processing.

In November, Independent announced it signed a memorandum of understanding with Seneca for sale of its plant. Seneca said the sale was completed Jan. 15 and issued a statement saying the operation is a "complementary fit with our existing canned fruit business." Seneca operates fruit canneries in California.

Independent was a cooperative, set its own prices with grower-members and did little or no cash buying. Grandy said he hopes Seneca signs the current contract the association has with Del Monte Foods, of San Francisco, and Northwest Packing Co., of Vancouver, Wash., the only other Northwest pear processors.

Seneca officials could not be reached for comment.

The association has about 1,300 members and negotiated a new, three-year contract in May with Del Monte and Northwest Packing. Both paid growers $260 per ton for field run No. 1 grade pears in 2012, up from $256 in 2011. The price increases to $266 per ton in 2013 and $272 in 2014.

Good quality and large sizes contributed to more fruit going to the fresh market last season, Grandy said. More than 128,000 tons of Bartlett pears were processed in the Northwest last year, down from 139,400 in 2011, Grandy said.

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