PORTLAND — For the first time in at least 25 years, the Wenatchee district pear production forecast has fallen from first place in the Pacific Northwest.
The Mid-Columbia district is the new No. 1. It’s also known as the Hood River district and includes pear orchards on the Oregon and Washington sides of the Columbia River.
The Mid-Columbia is projected to harvest 7.5 million, 44-pound boxes of winter and summer/fall pears this year compared with 7 million for Wenatchee, according to the May 30 forecast by Pear Bureau Northwest.
The Mid-Columbia is forecast to be up in volume, and Wenatchee is down.
The forecast calls for Wenatchee to be down 951,000 boxes of d’Anjou and down 441,000 boxes in Bosc.
Wayne Reiman, a Wenatchee Valley grower, cited several reasons for the drop.
Bud set last fall on bottoms of trees was poor probably because of sustained 100-degree days in the summer of 2017, he said. Other factors were this year’s cold February following a relatively mild January and several nights when temperatures dropped to the mid-20 degrees, he said.
“My best orchard is down 25% and my cold areas are down 50% to no-pick,” Reiman said, adding he knows of other valley growers who doubt they have enough pears to pick.
Shawn Cox, a Cashmere grower and industrial engineer at Blue Star Growers in Cashmere, said d’Anjou suffered significant frost damage right after bloom.
The total forecast of the Wenatchee, Yakima, Mid-Columbia and Medford districts and all pear varieties is 17.265 million boxes, down 9% from the 18.9-million-box 2018 crop and 6% below the five-year average. The record was 21.6 million in 2013.
“It’s below average but not a tiny crop,” said Kevin Moffitt, Pear Bureau president. “If we can get started early on the right track with momentum, it’s a crop size that should provide some good returns to growers, fingers crossed.”
Trade remains a concern, too, he said. “There are so many factors with tariffs not just hurting pears to China but putting more apples and table grapes into the domestic market that we had to compete with last fall.”
The forecast will be updated in early August. Right now, the breakdown by growing districts:
• Mid-Columbia: 7.52 million boxes.
• Wenatchee: 7 million boxes.
• Yakima: 2 million boxes.
• Medford: 557,750 boxes.
The top volumes by variety will be: 8.8 million boxes of d’Anjou, down 6% from 2018; 4.4 million boxes of Green Bartlett, down 4%; 2.2 million boxes of Bosc, down 30%; 1 million boxes of Red d’Anjou, up 6%; and 320,911 boxes of Starkrimson, up 3%.
Bosc, which tends to be more cyclical than other varieties, had a big jump up last year and now is estimated at its smallest crop in at least 15 years, Moffitt said.
Of the total crop, 1.7 million boxes will be organic, up from 1.4 million last year. Supply is catching up to demand but organic will probably continue to grow for a while, he said.
The overall crop is probably about a week behind this year due to a cold February and early March, Moffitt said.
Harvest is forecast to start with Starkrimson in Medford and Hood River on Aug. 5 and will finish in late September or early October in higher elevations of Hood River and Leavenworth at the upper end of the Wenatchee Valley.