Pear harvest

Pears at Washington State University's Sunrise Research Orchard in Rock Island, Aug. 7. The Northwest pear harvest is just starting and the crop is now pegged 8% greater than it was on May 30.

PORTLAND — The Pacific Northwest pear crop forecast has been revised upward to 18.6 million, 44-pound boxes.

That’s an 8% increase from the May 30 forecast of 17.265 million boxes by Pear Bureau Northwest. It’s 1% higher than the five-year average and 1% less than the 2018 harvest.

“The increase from the initial estimate is due to the fruit sizing up very well in the last two months,” said Kevin Moffitt, president and CEO of the Portland-based bureau, which is the Washington and Oregon industry’s promotional arm.

Growers are reporting large, beautiful fruit on trees with sizes that U.S. and Canadian retailers want, he said.

“With ample larger-sized pears, there will also be plenty of smaller fruit to fill the demand for bagged pears and for the export markets that prefer smaller fruit,” Moffitt said.

As with the May forecast, the Mid-Columbia — the Washington and Oregon sides of the Columbia River at Hood River — is forecast to surpass the Wenatchee district for the top producing region for the first time in at least 25 years. Mid-Columbia is projected at 8 million boxes, Wenatchee at 7.68 million, Yakima at 2.3 million and Medford at 518,000.

With a larger crop all markets are important,  but the potential loss of China is not devastating since it is not a large market.

“Our exports to China have continued to dwindle from a high of 185,000 boxes in the 2013-14 season to just over 2,000 this past year,” Moffitt said.

“The bright spot in export last year was Mexico, which took nearly 3.3 million boxes through July which represented about 61% of the industry’s fresh pear exports. Any significant reduction in the market in Mexico could be devastating to our industry,” he said.

He said he expects strong movement to continue to Mexico and Canada in the upcoming season. Canada was 21% of exports last season.

Israel is a growing market and India shows promise, as do the United Arab Emirates and Colombia, he said.

“We have effective promotion strategies to help these markets continue to expand while also developing other mid-sized markets which are showing promise,” Moffitt said. “Our domestic promotion programs continue to evolve with more social media advertising and targeted promotions at retail that will increase demand, coupled with a concerted effort by the industry to get great-tasting pears into the hands of consumer, which will bring them back for more.”

Harvest is just now starting in the four Northwest growing regions. Initially, Starkrimson was to start in Medford and Hood River on Aug. 5. Picking usually finishes in late September or early October in higher elevations of Hood River and Leavenworth, which is at the upper end of the Wenatchee Valley.

The new forecast, released Aug. 6, has Green d’ Anjou leading at 9.5 million boxes, or 51% of the crop; Green Bartlett at 4.8 million boxes and 26% of the crop; Bosc at 2.5 million boxes and 13% of the crop; and Red d’Anjou at 1.1 million boxes and 6% of the crop.

Organic pears are included in the overall estimate and continue to grow with more acres in transition. This year’s organic estimate is 1.9 million or 11% of the crop. The organic forecast breakdown is: 705,350 boxes of Green d’Anjou; Green Bartlett, 700,550 boxes; and Bosc, 273,400 boxes.

Central Washington field reporter

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