( Courtesy Pear Bureau Northwest )

CORRECTED: Pear volumes out of the Pacific Northwest in 2019 will be down, and the crop will late, but growers, shippers and marketers are upbeat about the upcoming season.

“We’re looking to capitalize on last year’s successes we had with several retailers and help push the category forward as a whole,” said Dan Davis, director of business development at Wenatchee, Wash.-based grower-shipper Oneonta Starr Ranch.

According to the Milwaukie, Ore.-based Pear Bureau Northwest, the industry compiled its first estimate for the coming year on May 30, forecasting 17.27 million carton equivalents. That would be down 9% from the 2018 harvest of 18.84 million and 9% below the industry’s five-year average.

Bartlett and anjou volumes likely will match last year’s take, but gold bosc numbers will shrink about 20%, according to the estimate.

Harvest may be about a week later than last year, with bartlett pears hitting the retail stores in the second half of August, the bureau reported.

As of July 12, the industry had sold 98% of last fall’s fresh pear crop.

“With about 450,000 boxes left to ship, there will most likely be anjou pears available into mid-August,” said Kevin Moffitt, president and CEO of Pear Bureau Northwest. 

Shipments last season started out relatively slow, due to export pressures and additional apples and grapes in the domestic market during the first several months of the season, Moffitt said.

Suppliers described the summer growing conditions as optimum.

“This year we expect an increased volume with our packers on green pear varieties, while the crop will be slightly down on bosc,” Davis said.

Growers say bosc trees tend toward alternate bearing, so lower expectations this year aren’t a surprise.
The only issue — more of a minor quibble, Davis said — was timing.

“Right now, the crop is trending only slightly later than (normal), but growing weather this year has been great with our relatively mild summer thus far,” he said. 

“We anticipate being able to have volume available from harvest through to June of next season on core items.”

The crop appeared to be five to seven days later than last year, said Chuck Sinks, president of sales and marketing with Yakima, Wash.-based Sage Fruit Co.

“The weather overall has been relatively mild this summer, which has slowed the growing process a bit,” he said.

The Hood River, Central Washington, and Cashmere/Northern growing regions came through the spring bloom with very little frost damage, said John Long, director of sales and operations at the Union Gap, Wash., branch of Raleigh, N.C.-based L&M Cos.

“Overall, the 2019 pear crop in the Northwest looks good,” he said. “We have had good weather throughout bloom and the growing season, so at this time all looks pretty favorable.”

Most growers will begin packing bartlett and red sensation/red bartletts about Aug. 20, and bartletts should continue through January or, perhaps, early February, Long said.

“We will continue to put a bigger percentage of bartlett pears into CA (controlled-atmosphere) storages in order to stretch the marketing season and avoid competition with the California bartlett pear crop,” Long said.

Bartletts should peak on larger sizes throughout the season, Long said.

Anjou, bosc and other varieties of winter pears will begin about the middle of September and continue through June or mid-July, “depending on how the pears hold up in storage,” he said.

The size of the winter pears will also be large, with most growers peaking on 70s to 100s, Long said.

“This sizing fits the retail business and is targeted by the growers in order to get the best return possible,” he said.

Note on correction: The original headline on the story reported the size of the crop incorrectly.