Strong demand greets Northwest pears

11/15/2012 09:44:00 AM
Andy Nelson

 comice pearCourtesy Pear Bureau NorthwestNorthwest pear shippers and officials report strong demand for promotable volumes of high-quality fruit.

Through early November, Northwest growers had shipped 31% of the 2012-13 crop, up from 25% at the same time last year, said Kevin Moffitt, president and chief executive officer of Pear Bureau Northwest, Milwaukie, Ore.

“We’re having a very good year,” Moffitt said.

Pricing has been strong, despite a good-sized crop, Moffitt said — the 19.2 million boxes expected this year are down from last year’s 20.5 million-box record crop, but expectations are right at the five-year average.

Despite the higher percentage of fruit shipped year-to-date, and despite expected shortages of apples this season, Moffitt was confident the Northwest pear crop would last for the duration of the season.

“The industry is pretty good about modulating the supply,” he said.

Thus far this season, pears shipped by Domex Superfresh Growers, Yakima, Wash., have been clean and big, with fruit peaking on 70s and other large sizes, said Howard Nager, vice president of marketing.

“It’s a vintage crop,” he said.

In mid-November Domex was transitioning from bartlett to heavy anjou promotions, Nager said. More retailers are selling pre-conditioned anjous than in the past, he said.

Bosc supplies are a bit tighter this year for Domex, Nager said.

Weekly volumes as of mid-November were close to historical averages for Wenatchee, Wash.-based Columbia Marketing International, said Bob Mast, vice president of marketing.

The company’s bartlett crop, however, which was winding down in November, moved at a faster clip than usual, Mast said. Bartletts were filling displays normally containing apples, which have been scarce in much of the country due to severe crop losses in Michigan and New York.

Due to retail demand, Columbia may add a 2-pound pouch to its pear packaging mix later this season, Mast said. The company currently is shipping in bulk and in 2-, 3-, 4- and 5-pound bags.

The hail that damaged Washington apples last summer seems to have spared the state’s pears, Mast said.

“The quality is very nice.”

Moffitt agreed.

“It’s been an exceptional year for finish, the fruit is very clean and the eating quality is good,” he said.

Markets should stay steady through the end of the year, Mast said.

Nager expects a continuation of the strong markets growers have enjoyed so far this season.

On Nov. 14, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported a price of $24 for 4/5 bushel cartons of anjous 70-90 from Washington, up from $20-22 last year at the same time.



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