Consolidation continues in the California pear industry, bringing acreage reduction. Combined with the state’s drought and strong cannery demand, that’s taking a bite out of projected fresh volumes for summer.
Boscs, down perhaps by half, are especially hard-hit. However, they are a fraction of a crop estimated at 3.1 million 36-pound box equivalents by the Sacramento-based California Pear Advisory Board.
Bartletts — which the processed market is competing for — are pegged at 2.6 million, down from 2.9 million last year.
Pear production began in late June with small volumes of sunsprites and stark crimsons. Bartletts were underway in the Sacramento River Delta by July 7. Mendocino County starts about Aug. 4 and Lake County Aug. 11 on the runup to Oregon and Washington.
Naumes Inc. sold about 2,000 acres to Sun Pacific last October, said Mike Naumes, president and chief executive officer. Nearly half were pears and the balance cherries, persimmons, walnuts and other crops. The company, which also operates in Washington and Oregon, retained California packing and storage sites in the Olivehurst area plus about 100 acres, 80 still in production.
“They took out everything but the cherries,” Naumes said. Kiwifruit was among the items expected to be planted.
“It should be a good market for California pears,” he said. “For one, the price is high this year for cannery bartlett pears. And the acreage we took out is really going to affect the winter pears, which will be down substantially from where they were in the past.”
“The California pear industry is consolidating,” said Atomic Torosian, managing partner at Fresno-based Crown Jewels Produce, which markets Greene & Hemly fruit. “It’s been steady, like the stone fruit deal. Stone fruit was 60 million boxes or more. Now it’s more like 40 to 45 million. The same thing is happening in pears: consolidation, lighter production, lighter imports and strong demand.”
Another ownership change came in June with the acquisition of Steamboat Orchards Packing Co.’s Walnut Grove operation by an as yet undisclosed group of buyers. It was unclear if or how that will affect pear volume.
Doug Hemly, owner at Courtland-based Greene & Hemly Inc., said deals like the one between Naumes and Sun Pacific benefit companies who remain in the pear business.
“There have been several other acreages or tonnages taken out for alternative crops in our area, primarily for wine grapes,” Hemly said. “It’s probably stabilized the marketplace. There is no surplus production of pears in California, and if the fresh market doesn’t meet or beat the processed prices, growers won’t be inclined to go fresh.”
The California estimate calls for about 220,000 boxes of golden russet boscs and 80,000 of stark crimsons. The mix also includes comice, forelles and seckels.
“Bosc may be off by as much as 50% due to acreage reduction,” said David Thiessen, sales manager for Courtland-based David J. Elliot & Son.
“On the bright side, we have a large red pear crop,” he said.