HOOD RIVER, Ore. — Retail interest in organic pears has prompted growers to continue investing in that area.

Pear Bureau Northwest estimated there will be 1.45 million boxes this season, up from a reported 2016-17 crop of 1.18 million boxes.

Organic fruit accounted for about 6.5% of the 2016-17 crop and is expected to make up about 8% of the new crop.

It represents more than 7% of national retail pear sales according to retail scan data from IRI/FreshLook Marketing.

“The organic supply is growing at a good rate, not to outpace demand,” said Kevin Moffitt, CEO of the Milwaukie-based bureau.

“It’s definitely going to continue to grow in the near future. There’s a lot of orchards that are in transition even now on the pear side.”

Mike Preacher, director of marketing and customer relations for Yakima, Wash.-based Domex Superfresh Growers, said about 25% of its pears are organic.

In the next five years, that number will grow until about one-third of Domex’s pears are organic.

Roger Pepperl, director of marketing for Wenatchee, Wash.-based Stemilt Growers, said about 20% of Stemilt’s pears are organic.

“It’s hard to grow organic pears, but they’re becoming a bigger item,” Pepperl said.

Diamond Fruit Growers is another that expects to increase its organic offerings in coming years.

The company has organic pears available for the first time this season.

“We really like that the markets are excited about it,” said Diamond president David Garcia.

“It doesn’t seem to be just a niche anymore. We now have our major customers asking for organics, and that’s the big change right now.

“When you have the Costcos, when you have the Wal-Marts, when you have Sam’s Clubs, you have the Safeways, you have the Krogers coming in saying, ‘We want organics, and we want 10%, we want this growth’ ... that’s what we find exciting,” Garcia said.

Wenatchee-based Oneonta Starr Ranch Growers markets Diamond’s fruit.

Duckwall Fruit has a small organic offering and is also seeing some investment in organics.

“We do have a few growers in transition now, so we will see some growth there,” Weathers said. “At least for our grower base it will be small bits of transition. We’re not going to see huge change that direction, but we do have more organics coming in the near future.”