Warm April temperatures have pushed the California pear crop ahead of last year by a week to 10 days, creating additional retail opportunities, according to grower-shippers.
“Retailers have a bonus period of 10-11 days over last year where they can offer new crop to shoppers,” said Dave Parker, a marketing advisor based in Rivermaid Trading Co.’s Dinuba, Calif., office.
Rivermaid Trading expects to start picking the Sunsprite variety from Sacramento River district orchards July 2-3, followed by bartletts July 5, he said.
If that proves true, it would be 11 days ahead of last year’s start and 17 days ahead of the 2011 start.
This year’s earlier harvest returns to a more traditional timeframe.
“Going back when I used to pack pears in Placer County (Calif.), traditionally the River would start between July 4-11,” Parker said.
In addition, it could benefit retailers, he said.
“They may still have pears from Argentina or wherever. But if they can get the fresh crop of California pears in their stores early, what that means is there’s an opportunity to capture some bonus money by announcing, ‘We have fresh California pears.’ It seems to give everybody an early jolt.”
Rivermaid Trading plans to condition early pears from the River District with ethylene so they’ll ripen easily for consumers, Parker said.
Years ago, pears were considered a California summer fruit and were part of the now-defunct California Tree Fruit Agreement marketing order.
Parker said retailers could still take advantage of the synergy between stone fruit and pears, citing a study conducted by the tree fruit agreement.
“The overall category improved when pears joined the category,” he said. “I don’t know why, but it could be that pears are a ripened fruit. That’s a good message to convey that stone fruit and pears complement each other.”
Atomic Torosian, managing partner of Fresno, Calif.-based Crown Jewels Produce Co., which markets Courtland-based Greene & Hemly Inc.’s conventionally grown pears, said he expects the season to start a week to 10 days earlier than last year.
The two firms will have a preseason barbecue June 20 to evaluate the crop. But from everything he’s hearing, Torosian said the red starkrimson variety in the river district could start July 2-3, followed by bartletts July 7-8 and boscs in late July.
Based on the good movement of Southern Hemisphere fruit, Torosian said California pears should receive a good retail reception.
“I think retailers would rather have local fruit,” he said.
Like Rivermaid Trading, Greene & Hemly preconditions early fruit so consumers have a good eating experience, Torosian said.
David J. Elliot & Son, Courtland, Calif., also expects the first pears — starkrimson — to start the week of July 2, with bartletts the following week, said David Thiessen, sales manager. Early fruit will undergo preconditioning.
Based on the current market, he said he’s optimistic about the season.
“We’re hopeful we’ll get a good reception because all of the offshore stuff is winding down and is expensive, and there won’t be much Northwestern fruit left. So it will be a nice market,” Thiessen said.
So far, growing conditions have been nearly ideal, and fruit quality appears excellent with a good mix of sizes, he said.
“The crop on the trees is very uniform, so we think we’ll have nice sizes all the way through,” Thiessen said.