Weather, tariffs hamper sales as imports increase
By DAN WHEAT
Washington and Oregon pear growers are looking for a near record fall crop and still have almost double the amount of old crop to sell as they did a year ago.
The fall crop was estimated at 19.2 million, 44-pound boxes at the June 2-3 annual meeting of The Pear Bureau Northwest in Milwaukie, Ore., near Portland.
That's 5 percent above the average of the last five years, 8 percent above the 17.7 million-box 2010 crop and just shy of the record 20.1 million boxes in 2009, said Kevin Moffitt, bureau president.
Of the total estimate, 15.2 million are winter pears and 4 million are summer-fall pears.
But the crop is expected to shrink from June fruit drop, which may keep prices strong, said Dan Kelly, assistant manager of the Washington Growers Clearing House Association in Wenatchee.
The season-to-date average wholesale price of all varieties in Washington was $21.56 a box on May 29 compared with $17.25 a year ago and $19.89 two years ago, he said. Prices are not similarly compiled in Oregon.
The crop size estimate will not be updated until September. It is used by warehouses to set marketing strategies and prices and some advance contracts.
Crop size is slowly increasing as newer and more dense plantings enter production, Moffitt said.
More imported pears, particularly from Argentina, this year led to 1.57 million boxes of old crop left to sell as of May 28, compared with 822,000 boxes a year ago, Moffitt said.
Winter storms also slowed shipments from the Northwest to the East, he said. A 20 percent Mexican tariff continues to hamper sales there but hopefully will be lifted for most of the 2011 crop, he said.
"No one is moving the volume they would have liked at the pace they wanted, but I think we will be just fine," said Bruce Grim, manager of the Washington and Hood River pear marketing associations.
Quality is good and the fruit will hold so it will be sold into August. It usually is sold out in July, Moffitt said. The overage is predominately Green d'Anjou and some Red d'Anjou, he said.
The old crop will overlap with the fresh California crop and early Bartlett crop but "it will get sold," Moffitt said.