U.S.: Northwest pear crop faces stiff competition with apples
With the U.S. Northwest pear campaign fully underway, an industry representative has said everything is progressing well but highlighted the challenge thrown up by the large apple crop.
Pear Bureau Northwest lead marketing manager Bob Koehler said production from Washington and Oregon was down a little bit this year.
The overall crop is set at 18.7 million boxes, equal to around 414,000 metric tons (MT), which Koehler said was 2% less than last season and 7% under the five-year average.
While he said production had been good this year, with favorable growing conditions and fruit sizes, a large apple crop in much of North America had resulted in stiff market competition.
"The apples are such a big crop - in the Northwest, in Michigan, in New York, Ontario, British Columbia - so the apple prices are down," he told www.freshfruitportal.com.
"With the apple prices being down so much there’s a lot of promotion going on apples...so I think we’re fighting that obstacle a little bit too."
However, he highlighted promotions were also being carried out for pears and welcomed the location and space allocation in supermarkets.
"We just want to be visible. We want to give consumers the right opportunities to buy pears," he said, added a range of different marketing activities were to take place in December, which is National Pear Month.
This year's campaign had one of the earliest ever starts due to warm weather during the bloom period in spring, according to Koehler, and many growers found themselves overlapping with the California season as a result.
Another peculiarity of this season is that the production of Green Barletts exceeded Green D'Anjous.
"Last year there were fewer Barlett pears, but this year it is basically record crop. There was a lot of heat last April in the growing areas. Both Barletts and D'Anjous came on at the same time, and I guess the bees just liked the Barletts better," he said.
"So the FOB [freight on board prices] on D'Anjous are more than Barletts, which is very unusual."
Barletts are expected to be available to until at least the end of February, and so Koehler said there would not be much of a transition period between the Northwest fruit and Southern Hemisphere supplies.
Aside from the Comice variety, the representative said all fruit was very clean this year and much of the production that was typically sent for processing was being sold on the fresh market.
In addition, the average fruit sizes are much higher than last year.
"The fruit sized up beautifully. Unlike last year when we were picking lots of 100s, 90s and 110s, this year pretty much across the board its 80s, then 90s and 70s," he said.
"After that heat in April, the rest of the growing season was very favorable."
Exports are also down slightly this year due to the strength of the U.S. dollar against other currencies, he added.