The U.S. will for the first time welcome pear industry researchers, experts, growers and marketers from around the world to the 2017 Interpera Congress, with new variety development and global consumption levels set to be among the hot topics.
The 10th annual meeting of the pear conference will be held in Wenatchee, Washington on June 15 -16, 2017, and Pear Bureau Northwest president and CEO Kevin Moffitt is expecting to host industry actors from all corners of the globe.
“It’s going to be right up in the premier pear growing area of Washington State. We should have some fruit on the trees and it should be beautiful weather, so all in all we’re really looking forward to it,” he told Fresh Fruit Portal.
He said it was “an honor and an excellent opportunity” to host the event, explaining the attendees would learn about the latest innovations in new pear varieties, mechanization and growing practices, with tours of high density and traditional orchards.
The pear industry worldwide is a “pretty mature industry”, according to Moffitt, but lagged behind many other crops like apples somewhat in terms of new variety development and plantings.
“I think that consumption, frankly, for pears has been pretty stagnant, and this type of international program that focuses 100% on pears is an excellent opportunity to really discuss those issues, to open people’s eyes about what is really being done and to help us get over some of the hurdles so that we can make some forward progress,” he said.
Noting pear production outside of China had been relatively flat over recent years – even declining in some areas – Moffitt said he believed discussing ideas on how to boost consumption and taking into account what has worked in other areas would be the “backbone” of future progress.
“However, I think that some of the issues that are more exciting, more interesting and potential game changing are the new varieties that are being developed,” he said.
“There have been a few introduced into Europe, a couple in the U.S. and maybe one into Canada. There’s a lot of development going on with new varieties but it’s a very slow process. I think that people maybe don’t realize that there are quite a few new varieties out there but we haven’t brought them into the right areas.”
Obtaining new dwarfing rootstocks will also be critical to being able to plant many of the new varieties and having high-density plantings, which lend themselves more to mechanization.
Moffitt highlighted Belgium and the Netherlands as two countries with advanced industries in terms of high-density plantings, explaining that unlike countries like Italy and Chile, they had in fact turned focus away from apples and onto pears over the last decade or so.
As for variety development, he said New Zealand was one of the global leaders, pointing out recent development in the country had led to a cultivar that was a mix between Asian-style apple-like pears that can be eaten straight off the tree and European-style varieties that require post-harvest cold storage.
“We’re going to be discussing a lot of great topics that tie together and are really true issues, especially for the U.S., but also for other growers around the world,” he said.
“We invite anyone who’s interested in pears to come and visit.”
Good domestic pricing
Commenting on the 2016-17 Northwest pear season, Moffitt said production levels had remain stable year-on-year and growers in general had enjoyed good prices, although the strong domestic market and U.S. dollar had led to lower exports over the last couple of years.
“From here on we’re pretty much selling to North America and Mexico. All in all it’s been profitable, but a little bit difficult because there’s been such a huge apple crop this year,” he said.
“The high pricing has slowed down a bit, but at the end of the day I think there will be a decent profit back to the grower.”
Click here for more information on the 2017 Interpera Congress.