Northwest pushing large pear crop

Esperanza Sanchez boxes Bartlett pears at Blue Star Growers Inc., Cashmere, Wash., Nov. 2. The 2018 Northwest pear crop is near record volume. Prices are good. Sales are slow.

WENATCHEE, Wash. — August through October pear harvest is over and now the Pacific Northwest pear industry is about three months into packing and shipping a near record crop of 20.4 million, 44-pound boxes.

The crop is 29 percent larger than a year ago and 5.5 percent behind the record 21.6-million-box crop of 2013.

“Prices are good compared to last year while movement is not,” said Brian Focht, manager of the Washington and Mid-Columbia Pear Marketing Associations, in Wenatchee.

The Nov. 2 average of industry asking prices, in Wenatchee and Yakima, was $23 to $28.90 per box for size 70s and 80s of U.S. No. 1 Bartlett and $22 to $26.90 for 90s, according to USDA.

The price for d’ Anjou U.S. No. 1 was $24 to $30.90 for 70s and 80s and $24 to $28.90 for 90s. Bosc U.S. No. 1 was $26 to $30.90 for 70s and 80s and $24 to $28.90 for 90s.

“Those are good ranges. That’s very similar to this time last year. Most likely a little lower because of the size of the crop, but prices are good,” Focht said.

“Movement started out slower than we would like but has been picking up,” said Kevin Moffitt, president of The Pear Bureau Northwest in Portland.

As of Nov. 2, 20.6 percent of the crop had been shipped versus 25.7 percent a year earlier with a much smaller crop, Moffitt said.

Movement has been slow because California, always in the market before Washington and Oregon, had a large crop with slow movement causing retailers to take their time switching over to buy Northwest Bartlett, Moffitt said.

California had 2.75 million, 36-pound boxes of pears versus 3 million a year ago, he said.

Warm weather in the Midwest, New England and Canada slowed fall pear sales and a lot of grapes and summer fruit stayed in the market longer, Moffitt said.

The table grape crop was huge and that delayed up front sales displays of pears in grocery stores, Focht said.

Given this year’s pear crop is so much larger than last year’s movement comparisons “don’t tell us much,” Focht said.

This year’s d’ Anjou pear crop in the Wenatchee Valley was larger which contributed to it being better quality than recent seasons, said Greg Rains, horticulturalist and fieldman for Blue Star Growers Inc., in Cashmere.

Quality also was improved by cooler temperatures caused by summer wildfire smoke, he said.

Heat and a light crop load increases odds of cork, a fruit decay also driven by calcium deficiencies, Rains said. Grower were more aggressive this year on pear psylla control, he said.

Wenatchee Valley monitoring stations showed a 20 percent reduction in sunlight due to smoke from summer wildfires, said Lee Kalcsits, tree fruit physiologist at the Washington State University Tree Fruit Research and Extension Center in Wenatchee.

That reduced light stress on pear trees, he said.

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