Naumes will take over most of the packing for the area
By DAN WHEAT
MEDFORD, Ore. -- The largest pear company in Medford will pack most of the area's pears and for the first time a California company will market a fair amount of Medford pears when harvest starts next month.
Naumes Inc. of Medford will continue packing its own pears and those of Meyer Orchard and will add Associated Fruit Co. and Southern Oregon Sales -- all of Medford, said Mike Naumes, president of Naumes Inc. It will boost Naumes' packing by 40 percent to about 1 million, 44.5-pound boxes, he said.
Naumes Inc. will assume operation of the packing and cold storage facilities of SOS.
However, the 400,000 boxes of pears that Naumes Inc. packs for Associated and SOS will be sold by Rivermaid Trading Co., Lodi, Calif., Naumes said. Some Naumes fruit will also be marketed by Rivermaid.
"We're all intertwined because we're not a big district and we have to all work together to make it a viable industry," Naumes said.
Rivermaid is the largest California pear packer and a sizable cherry packer. Its chief marketing officer, Ken Carter, declined comment, but Naumes said Rivermaid wants to sell Medford pears to have year-round supply for its buyers.
California pears usually sell out by January with few stored until then. Oregon pears are stored and sold longer. Big retailers like to go to a few suppliers for year-round supply.
Naumes Inc. sub-supplies other companies in California and Washington with pears because it can't afford multiple distribution centers, Naumes said.
"We are holding our own," he said. The company recently sold its juice concentrate division in Wapato, Wash., to a British Columbia firm and has sold some real estate, he said.
Associated, SOS and Bear Creek Orchards, the parent company of Harry & David, all have experienced financial difficulties. Medford's relatively small pear volume and remoteness from other Pacific Northwest tree fruit regions has made sales and distribution challenging.
But Naumes said the Medford pear industry is healthy. Acreage is down a little from Bear Creek removing some trees but remains at about 5,500 to 6,000 acres with Naumes Inc. operating about one-third. Naumes Inc. owns 1,600 acres and leases 500 from Associated, plus 50 from other entities. Associated leases 100 acres to Meyers and will continue to operate 300 acres of its own, Naumes said.
Doug Lowry, chief executive officer of Associated, declined comment. The company laid off half its year-round staff and downsized in March, citing reduced tonnage caused by the late spring frost of 2010. At that time, David Lowry, company president, told the Medford Mail Tribune the future of the area's pear industry was questionable.
The region is top heavy in Bosc and is working toward greater varietal diversification because buyers like to get several varieties in a truck load, Naumes said.
Naumes Inc. will pack 1 million boxes and another 500,000 boxes will be Harry & David gift packs, he said.
Medford pears for canning are trucked to plants in Vancouver and Yakima, Wash.
Naumes Inc. operates 750 acres of orchards near Entiat and Pateros, Wash., north of Wenatchee.