Mexico isn’t the only country making pear exports a challenge this year, said Jeff Correa, international marketing director at Milwaukie, Ore.-based Pear Bureau Northwest.
Take Brazil, the industry’s third-largest market after Mexico and Canada, and the Northwest’s largest export bartlett market.
“We’re hoping to go 450,000 boxes this year over the season,” he said. “Exports there will depend on how long Argentina stays in the market and how long their fruit holds up. If it doesn’t hold up well, that might open the window in September, October and November for us.”
Poor or infrequent transportation services, however, remains the biggest barrier to increasing exports to Brazil, he said. Having to put the perishable fruit on trains traveling east from West Coast ports and then south to Brazilian cities adds at least $6 a box, he said.
Another concern is Venezuela, where the ministry of agriculture suddenly stopped issuing import permits for fruits and vegetables in June.
“Venezuela is our best market for lower grades and fancy products,” Corea said. “We don’t know what will happen,” he said in early August. “Last year it was a 220,000-box market.”
Exporting to Europe may be more difficult because Global GAP certification is now a requirement, Correa said. “Some of our shippers were trying to get their orchards certified before the start of the season,” he said.
In Germany, meanwhile, retailers have a new marketing strategy: implementing residue level standards that are even stricter than the country’s national standards.
“It’s to the point where we probably won’t be shipping to the largest retailer in Germany this year,” Corea said. “That will have a tremendous impact on our shipments to Germany. We hope we can re-engage them and get them on board, but at the moment it doesn’t look too optimistic.”
Russia and India, on the other hand, represent two of the best growth markets for US pears, Correa said. Steady growth is also expected in the Middle East, which should take 250,000 boxes this year.
“Russia has boomed in volume,” he said. “We did about 330,000 boxes last year and 370,000 boxes the prior year with a bigger crop. We’re hoping to get back up this year, closer to 400,000 boxes.”
Although the dollar is 35% stronger compared to last year, he said the ruble to the dollar has been pretty consistent since early March, which has helped the market adjust. “We still expect good things there.”
India also looks promising, he said, offering Northwest pears the potential to double in the next two years.
“We’re looking to go to 140,000 to 150,000 boxes this year,” he said. “That’s a 50,000 to 60,000-box increase over two years ago when we had a large crop.”
Another goal for this season is to train more importers, wholesalers and retailers on the benefits of ripening or conditioning pears, he said.
“There will probably be additional costs but there will also be additional profits,” he said.
In other export news, shipments of organic pears continue to be limited, Correa said, with 129,000 boxes exported last season to Canada, the United Kingdom, Mexico and Germany.