( Courtesy Greene & Hemly )

California pear grower-shippers say they anticipate ample supplies of fruit, although the first promotable volumes likely will be a bit late during the 2019 season.

“A slightly-later-than-normal harvest,” said Kyle Persky, sales manager at Lodi, Calif.-based Rivermaid Trading Co.

Although the start of harvest has varied in recent years, “normal” is considered to be around July 10-15, they say.

“We’ve had a cool spring, so we’re running a little behind normal,” said Doug Hemly, owner of Courtland, Calif.-based grower-shipper Greene & Hemly Inc. “It’s still hard to tell exactly what that means, but we’re looking at mid-July.

Volume should exceed last year, Hemly said.

“Last year was quite short; this year, we’re looking at a normal crop,” he said. “It initially was probably larger than normal, but it has thinned out nicely. People pruned a little harder. The thought was better size would be a better approach, both conventionally and organically.”

Rivermaid expects to start harvesting bartletts around July 20, with volume picking up shortly thereafter, Persky said.

“We did prune aggressively, which should help with quality and sizing,” he said.

Availability of bartletts, California’s predominant variety, should be steady through September, Persky said.
Rivermaid says its sunsprites will be available the second week of July. Starkrimson pears will follow in the middle of the month. Rivermaid Reds will be available in late July and August, followed by Taylor’s Gold and comice, in mid- to late August.

The state generally ships 2.5 million-3 million 36-pound boxes of pears each year.

By contrast, Washington and Oregon, whose deal follows California’s by about a month, typically approaches the 20 million-box threshold.

Rivermaid anticipates markets to be comparable to previous seasons.

Fresno, Calif.-based Crown Jewels Produce, which handles conventional pears from Greene & Hemly, anticipates plenty of fruit.

“It’s a large crop this year — right now, looking to be much larger than last year,” said Stephen Thomason, salesman with Crown Jewels.

Finley, Calif.-based Scully Packing Co., which packs one-third of California’s fresh pear volume, anticipates an above-average crop in 2019 after a normal crop last year, said Scott Fraser, sales manager.

“While the start date on the (Sacramento) River is looking to be a week or 10 days later than normal, the start of the Mountain District should be closer to normal, with a start date about Aug. 5,” he said. “Although late, the California pear industry has experienced excellent weather these past few weeks resulting in the expectation of high-quality fruit.”

Fraser listed tentative start dates as follows: bartlett, July 20; red crimson, July 29; organic bartlett, July 31; mountain bartlett, Aug. 5; golden bosc, Aug. 10; and seckel, comice, forelle and French butter, Sept. 3.

“Following the end of the marketing season for winter pears and imports from South America, California experiences a great marketing window starting with the pear harvest in the Sacramento River District in July,” Fraser said. “California is fortunate to have fresh pack as harvest continues in August and September with the later Mountain districts of Mendocino and Lake counties.”

Courtland-based grower-shipper David J. Elliot & Son is forecasting “a nice crop,” said Larelle Miller, sales manager.

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