Kevin Moffitt’s globetrotting could pay off in a big way this year.
Moffitt, whom I talked to by e-mail in mid-August because he was (of course) en route from Ukraine, said it could be a big export year for U.S. pear shippers.
Moffitt, president and chief executive officer of the Milwaukie, Ore.-based Pear Bureau Northwest, made the prediction after attending the annual meeting of the Brussels-based World Apple and Pear Association on Aug. 5-7 in Kiev.
The highlight of the meeting is the annual forecast for pear crops worldwide. For the 2010 season, the association forecasts a 19% drop in European pear production.
An estimated 2.2 million metric tons are expected from the continent, the lowest amount in a decade and 12% below the three-year average.
“It should open up some opportunities in the EU itself, as well as in countries where we compete with the EU,” Moffitt said. “I think we’ll export a lot more this season.”
At the top of the list of those countries the Europeans and Americans frequently tussle over for trade is Russia, which he characterizes as “one of our top five and fastest-growing markets.”
Italy, Belgium and the Netherlands are all big exporters to Russia, and the crops in all three countries will be down significantly this year, he said.
The trade advantages for U.S. shippers could also be felt in corners of the world far from Russia, Moffitt said — in Brazil, for instance.
Production of the European rocha pear variety could be down 40% in the coming season, which is bad news for Portugal, but good news for the U.S., Moffitt said.
“The rocha is a strong competitor for USA pears when Portugal sends them to Brazil,” he said.
The other big news on the export front is the possibility of a breakthrough in opening up the Chinese market to U.S. pears, Moffitt said.
Two varieties of fresh Chinese pears are allowed into the U.S., and the Chinese are lobbying for a third.
It’s only fair, Moffitt said, that the U.S., after 15 years of knocking on the door, should get in to China. A September meeting between U.S. and Chinese officials is set, and the prospects for U.S. shippers never looked better.
“There is some movement,” he said. “We’re hearing better noises coming out of our government.”
With a higher percentage of pears destined for export markets this year, and the U.S. crop expected to be smaller than last year’s crop, conditions are ripe for strong domestic markets, Moffitt said.