Northwest pear shippers and officials report robust demand for a big, high-quality crop.

About 72% of Northwest pears had yet to ship as of Nov. 8, up from 69% last year at the same time, said Kevin Moffitt, president and chief executive officer of Pear Bureau Northwest, Milwaukie, Ore.

Yet 6.3 million boxes had already shipped as of that date, up from 6 million the year before, Moffitt said.

“It’s a big crop, and movement has been pretty good,” he said.

Keith Mathews, chief executive officer of FirstFruits Marketing of Washington LLC, Yakima, Wash., agreed.

“Things are moving quite well,” Mathews said. “Good volumes, good pricing.”

On Nov. 26, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported prices of

Markets could change when anjous take over the bulk of the deal’s heavy lifting from bartletts, Mathews said.

“Some customers want to stay with bartletts longer,” he said. “They think they sell through better.”

Northwest shippers are on track to ship about 22.2 million boxes of pears this year, which would be the largest on record and 14% more than last season.

Fruit is sizing bigger this year, which has proved attractive to domestic buyers, particularly with the holidays coming up, Moffitt said.

But bigger is not necessarily better for export markets.

“(Exports) have been a bit of a challenge” because of sizing this season, he said.

FirstFruits has not had the overabundance of large fruit other growers have had, said Mathews, who reported a good mix of small, medium and large fruit this season.

“We haven’t had the high volumes of 50s and 60s that others have had,” he said.

Prices should stay stable in general heading into December, but markets for scarcer small fruit could firm up, Moffitt said.

Northwest shippers should have all varieties on hand to ship for the holidays, Moffitt said. In fact, with the big crop this season, most varieties should be available through January.

Quality is good this season, with about 88% of fruit grading out at No. 1-quality, which is normal, Moffitt said. Because of some labor shortages during harvest, some fruit hung on trees longer than usual, which improved its eating quality, he said.

Quality has generally been good for FirstFruits, though some growers struggled with a little more russeting than usual on some early varieties, Mathews said.