LODI, Calif. — An air of excitement is circulating around the start of this year’s California pear crop.
Grower, shippers and marketers say they’re not sure of the exact cause, but they believe an earlier crop, a lack of storage and imported fruit on the market, and even a previous article in The Packer talking about the early start could be contributors.
The crop is estimated at about 4.5 million 36-pound-tight-fill cartons, up slightly from the 2012 crop, according to the Sacramento-based California Pear Advisory Board.
Broken down, that’s about 2.8 million from the river district, 1.2 million from the lake district and about 418,000 from the mountain district.
Atomic Torosian, managing partner in Crown Jewels Produce, Fresno, said the last week of June that he had already taken orders for California pears.
“The retailers are ready for the California bartletts to get started,” Torosian said. “They seem to be eager.”
Crown Jewels has had a long-standing relationship with Greene & Hemly, Courtland, to market its conventionally grown pears.
David Thiessen, sales manager for Courtland-based David J. Elliot & Son, said strong demand, coupled with an end to offshore and Northwest fruit, should boost demand.
“A new product always creates new excitement in the produce section,” he said.
Torosian said he expected the first starkrimsons to be picked July 3, followed by bartletts July 8.
All of the early fruit will be preconditioned to provide a good eating experience for consumers, he said.
As the month progresses, other varieties, such as bosc, comice and taylors gold, will begin to mature.
Crown Jewels also has a large apple program, beginning with gala, that runs concurrently with the pears. In addition, the marketer offers melons, year-round grapes and pomegranates.
“So we’re in a lot of different things, and we have a full shopping cart to fill our retail trading partners’ needs,” he said. “We’re mixing a lot of our fruit down in Reedley.”
That way, Crown Jewels can offer retailers mixed loads from its cold storage in the Central Valley.
Ken Carter, chief marketing officer for Rivermaid Trading Co., Lodi, said he saw a small amount of excitement last year before the California harvest.
He’s seeing more this season.
“It’s just a function of when the Northwest and imports end,” he said. “I think with all of the data retailers are able to extract that bartletts are still an American favorite. So any time there’s a new crop of bartletts, they’re always excited about it.