Reduced acreage may trim volume, boost prices

07/16/2009 11:22:02 AM
Abbie Stutzer

California pear grower-shippers expect a strong crop, with a balance between supply and demand.

“The industry is projected to market approximately 3.4 million cartons of fresh bartlett pears this season,” David Thiessen, sales manager of David J. Elliott & Sons, Courtland, Calif., said.

“I believe the industry has reached a balance between supply and demand this year and in future years should thrive. The future will bring growth in new varietal pears and perhaps some growth in bartletts,” Thiessen said.

“The pear supply from the David J. Elliot company will be good on all varieties. Quality looks excellent this year.”

Steve Johnson, marketing director of Johnson Orchards Inc., Ukiah, Calif., whose company packs and ships mountain district pears — specifically the Eagle Peak label out of Stockton, Calif., and Kingsburg, Calif. — said a significant amount of trees have been abandoned or removed this year.

Johnson said this year’s pears were clean, and sizing was good because heat wasn’t too intense this season.

“It’s good for fresh sales and quality,” he said.

Atomic Torosian, partner in Crown Jewels Marketing and Distribution LLC, Fresno, Calif., said supply could drop up to 15%.

Patrick Archibeque, sales manager of All State Packers, Lodi, Calif. said the pear crop had excellent bloom time and beautiful spring weather.

One company expected higher volume this year, though.

Phil Scully, co-owner of Scully Packing Co. LLC, Finley, Calif., said “while industry production is expected to be down about 9% due to acreage removals, Scully’s volume is expected to be up slightly from last year, a result of favorable spring weather. Quality is expected to be above average and sizing is expected to be average.”

Another reason pear supply may be down is because Sacramento, Calif.-based pear shipper Carter Thomas LLC has closed.

“Carter Thomas closed their doors this past season. I hated to see it happen,” Torosian said. “Between that and the pullouts, the crop size will be down.”

Torosian said the down crop size probably wouldn’t hurt, but help.

Harvesting for most California pear crops will begin around July 15.

“The crop seems to be coming along nicely, with an expected packout about 250,000 boxes of bartletts, 75,000 boxes of bosc pears and about 50,000 boxes of specialty pears,” Torosian said.

Scully said 80% of the company’s production would come from mountain districts.

“Harvest is expected to start in the Sacramento district about July 15, with the first mountain fruit available sometime the week of Aug. 3.”

“Bartletts will be a little later this year compared to last due to unseasonal cool weather in June. We will probably start our harvest around July 15 and shipping around July 18 to allow for preconditioning of the early fruit,” Thiessen said.

“Red pears will start around July 9 and the rest of the varietal pears, bosc, comice, seckels and french butter will start in August. California pears will be marketed well into October or November sometimes extending into December in large or late crops,”
 
Most shipping and packing procedures will remain the same this year.

The pears Crown Jewels represents will ship both domestically and outside the U.S. to Canada, Central America and Mexico, Torosian said.

Torosian said there aren’t a lot of new packaging procedures, but noticed the company was making more bags and bins every year, some in smaller sizes.

Archibeque said the bosc crop would probably be double what it was last year, and additional plantings would be coming to production.

The company packs about 1.5 million cartons of bartletts and about 400,000 cartons of other pear varieties, Archibeque said.

Thiessen said his company has increased bartletts and red pears acreage in the Sacramento Delta.

All State Packers expects 1.9 million cartons of each to ship this season. There are more acres planted compared to last year because of additional growers.

Some in the industry predict pricing will be up this year.

“Pricing trends are hard to predict due to the vast number of factors that affect pricing. However, with a shorter crop of bartlett pears this year, pricing should be up from last year,” Thiessen said.

Johnson said fewer pears on the market might affect pricing.

Archibeque and Torosian also said pricing is good relative to last year.

“We anticipate a good quality year, possibly with better prices,” Torosian said.



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