Moffitt: 'Growers should see very good returns this year'
By DAN WHEAT
WENATCHEE, Wash. -- It's a great year for Pacific Northwest fresh pear growers, the kind of year that "doesn't come along very often," a pear industry leader says.
Demand is strong, sales are strong and pricing is strong, Kevin Moffitt, president of The Pear Bureau Northwest, told growers Jan. 23 during the North Central Washington Pear Day at the Wenatchee Convention Center.
"Growers should see very good returns this year," he said. "They're making good money on a big crop."
As of Jan. 18, 63 percent of the 2012 fresh pear crop had been sold versus 55 percent a year earlier, Moffitt said. The season-to-date average price for all varieties was $23.55 per box as of Jan. 19 compared with $19.64 a year earlier and $20.93 two years ago, said Dan Kelly, assistant manager of Washington Growers Clearing House Association.
The 2012 crop is at 19.3 million, 44-pound boxes, which is in line with the five-year average and smaller than the 2011 record crop of 20.6 million boxes, Moffitt said.
The good demand is attributable to several factors, including promotions and light apple crops in the East and Midwest, he said. Having fewer apples available in the East is helping sales of Northwest apples and pears, he said.
"One thing we will watch closely the rest of the year is imports," he said, but the situation looks good.
Argentina, in the middle of harvest, appears down 7 percent and Chile is about even with last year, Moffitt said.
European pear inventory is 40 percent lighter than a year ago so a lot of Southern Hemisphere pears will be going to Europe, he said. That means Southern Hemisphere imports in the U.S. should be about the same as last year at 3 million boxes and not threaten Northwest sales, he said.
Southern Hemisphere pears usually begin arriving in the U.S. the third week of February and run to May or June, he said.
Moffitt told growers he's optimistic about the future of Northwest pears because world population is growing while pear production, outside China, remains relatively flat.
Growing middle classes in Asia can afford imported fruit so that bodes well for the long term, he said.
There's more emphasis on healthy eating and fruits are increasingly recognized as good snacks, he said.