Washington and Oregon pear growers expect the fourth-largest crop this season, according to Pear Bureau Northwest. ( File photo )

Northwest pear growers are starting the season with an estimated 20.2 million 44-pound box equivalents, which is the fourth-largest crop in history.

Growers in Washington’s Wenatchee and Yakima districts and Oregon’s Mid-Columbia and Medford districts released the forecast in early August, increasing an earlier estimate of 18.9 million boxes, according to a news release from the Pear Bureau Northwest.

Harvest has begun in all four growing districts, about a week earlier than the 2017-18 season, but closer to the historical start date. Harvest will continue through September.

“After last year's very small crop, our growers are pleased to have a full crop of great quality pears to meet growing consumer demand,” Kevin Moffitt, president and CEO of Pear Bureau Northwest said in the release. “Retailers have a strong opportunity for pear category growth in the produce department this season and we are prepared to provide them with individual category analysis, consumer insights, and effective promotions to drive pear sales.”

Estimates for the leading varieties, in 44-pound box equivalents:

  • Green anjou — 9.9 million (49% of total Northwest crop)
  • Bartlett — 5.3 million (26% of total crop)
  • Bosc — 3.2 million (16% of total crop)
  • Red Anjou — 1 million (5% of total crop)


Organic estimate

Washington and Oregon growers estimate organic production this season at 2 million 44-pound boxes, according to the release, which is 10% of the total Northwest crop. The industry’s organic forecast is for about 753,000 boxes of green anjous, 698,000 boxes of bartletts and 384,000 boxes of bosc pears.

Growth in the organic pear crop is due to newly transitioned orchards and a strong pear crop overall, according to the release.

Harvest of starkrimsons has started in most Northwest districts, and bartletts starting the week of Aug. 12. By the end of August, comice, bosc, forelle and seckel picking will have started, followed by anjous in September.


Domestic, export marketing plans

The Pear Bureau Northwest will emphasize to retailers a conditioned pear program to display ripe pears. The group plans social media support and a supermarket dietitian program, according to the release, as well as working with retailers to display multiple varieties throughout the season. A new video series will focus on growers and the overall industry.

In export markets, primarily Mexico, Central American, India, Middle East and Asia, Pear Bureau Northwest will promote in-store sampling, movie tie-ins, nutrition workshops and consumer advertising, according to the release.

The organization plans 1- to 2-month promotion agreements with specific retailers to increase shelf space and location when U.S. pears are advertised in foreign markets.


U.S. production

The U.S. Department of Agriculture released overall U.S. pear production estimates, putting the season’s crop at 739,200 tons, an increase of less than 1% from last season.

Bartlett production, at 336,400 tons, is 1% down from last season.

Other pear production in the Pacific Coast states is forecast at 402,800 tons, 2% above last year.

“Growers in Oregon and Washington reported a solid crop with excellent quality, but had concerns that significant fire blight issues could reduce current production,” the USDA said.

In California, harvest began in the Sacramento-San Joaquin region in mid-July. The USDA said inconsistent weather conditions and reports of high instances of fire blight led to a lighter crop than last year.

California’s bartlett crop is estimated to be 159,300 tons, with other varieties at 26,300 tons, according to the USDA.

Editor-in-chief Tom Karst contributed to this article.