(Nov. 13) The U.S. is the second- or third-largest pear producer in the world, depending on the Italian pear crop. The West Coast states of Washington, Oregon and California produce 98% of the commercial pears in the U.S.
Chris Zanobini, president of the California Pear Advisory Board, and I are the U.S. pear representatives in the World Apple and Pear Association. This association consists of representatives from 14 major pear and apple producing countries. WAPA can be an effective tool in overcoming some of the challenges and problems facing our industry.
Growers of apples and pears face the same problems worldwide. We need to act, or the farms and growers will disappear. By working together, we can overcome some of these challenges.
Pear production has nearly tripled in the past 10 years, reaching 14 million metric tons. Worldwide consumption also has increased, but not to the same degree, with fresh pear consumption rising 50% since 1995. Since production during that period has grown twice as fast, we now face an imbalance in supply and demand.
A look at the top pear producing countries shows China’s dominance, growing 50% of the world’s pears. However, most of the Chinese production is Asian varieties. Only 1% to 2% of Chinese production is in European varieties, which are the majority of production in the U.S., Europe and the Southern Hemisphere. But even assuming a 2% production in European varieties would put China at more than 160,000 metric tons of non-Asian varieties — on par with Australia.
NEED FOR ACTION
One look at the world pear supply gives you an idea of the need for action. WAPA is just one of the tools we are using to help keep growers profitable.
The goal is to establish a forum and clearinghouse to share crop, market and consumption information.
The pear bureau has shared market and crop information with Europe for more than 10 years and with South America for nearly five years, including on-site visit exchanges. The WAPA forum strengthens these coalitions and brings new information on areas such as Asia, while broadening the overall picture.
There are opportunities for more information and research sharing, including varieties planted, the age of production, new varieties being developed and consumer preferences in certain markets. This information helps our industry make better business decisions, especially regarding what to plant. Pear trees can take six to eight years before producing a profitable crop. A lot can change in that time.