Strong pear demand and pricing for growers characterized the 2012-13 season, said Kevin Moffitt, president and chief executive officer of Pear Bureau Northwest.
The successful 2012 pear season was aided by a smaller U.S. national apple crop, Moffitt said, and strong prices and good movement characterized the marketing season.
Mike Nicholson, salesman with Columbia Marketing International, Wenatchee, Wash., said the last of the size 90 and larger 2012 anjous moved for $38 per carton in mid-July.
“Usually, if it gets into the $30 neighborhood, that’s a heck of a year,” he said.
The strong finish to the Northwest season and good early movement from California bodes well for the start of the Northwest season.
“We’re looking for a nice transition,” Moffitt said.
The 2013 Northwest pear crop has been estimated at a total of 19.83 million cartons, up 4% from the five-year average and up 2% from a year ago. Northwest summer and fall pear output — mostly bartletts — is rated at 4.74 million cartons, up 9% from the five-year average but down 5% from a year ago.
Northwest winter pear production is expected to reach 15.09 million cartons, up 3% from the five-year average and 4% higher than the 2012 crop.
Moffitt said the 2013 crop should be manageable, and he expects it to rank as the third largest on record.
Average f.o.b. prices for Bartlett pears rose from $24.33 per carton on Sept. 1, 2012, to $27.25 per carton in early January. That was up from the 2011-12 season, when average shipping point prices for Bartlett pears started the season at $21.07 per carton on Sept. 22, 2011, and ended at $22.90 in early January 2012.
Average prices for Washington D’Anjou pears during the 2012-13 season from Washington rose from $25.71 per carton on Sept. 22 to $28.75 per carton in late June this year. That also was up strongly from the 2011-12 season, when D’Anjou prices averaged $20.30 in early October 2011 and ended the season at $22.64 per carton.
Clean fruit in the 2012-13 season helped reduce packing costs and improved grower profits.
While the Northwest crop is sizeable, there is some frost damage that could result in some off-grade fruit, said Robert Wymore, vice president of operations for Diamond Fruit Growers Inc., Odell, Ore.
Hot summer weather helped the fruit size well, Wymore said.
Demand for pears worldwide was excellent during the 2012-13 season, said Ed Weathers, vice president and sales manager of Duckwall Fruit, Hood River, Ore.
“Competing crops were short, with a smaller California crop, and of course, the soft fruit suffered and the failures on the East Coast on apples also improved the competitive picture,” he said. “It was one of those perfect storms, and we had a nice large crop on the river, so it was nice for the growers.”
While apple and pear markets are different, Mike Nicholson, salesman for Colombia Marketing International, Wenatchee, said high-priced apple market reduces buyer resistance to the higher prices of pears.
After Labor Day, retailers like to source apples and bartlett pears out of Washington, Nicholson said.
“They like to mix apples and bartlett loads, especially today, the way they manage inventories,” he said. “It is always mixed loads unless someone is on promotion,” he said.
Nicholson says he sees growth in the club store 5-pound and 6-pound bags for pears, and other retail outlets are also pushing pears.
“It seems like we’ve got higher numbers of promotions in the last couple of years, particularly bartletts and anjous,” he said.
The ultimate course of the 2013 season soon will begin to make itself evident with firmer ideas about the pear crop and competitive fruit outlet, Weathers said.
“You don’t have a concrete plan the first of August, but it kind of evolves as the season goes on,” he said. “It really depends on the crop.”