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Northwest pear crop down slightly from 2016

At the annual Pear Bureau Northwest meeting held June 1, Northwest pear growers compiled the first official 2017-18 fresh pear crop estimate for Washington and Oregon.

Pear growers and producers from Washington’s Wenatchee and Yakima districts and Oregon’s Mid-Columbia and Medford districts estimated the fresh pear harvest at 17.6 million standard box equivalents, or 390,000 tons of fresh pears. The estimate is 2 percent less than 2016 harvest and 10 percent less than the five-year average.

“Growers are reporting an excellent quality of pear crop on the trees, albeit a bit shorter crop than last season,” Kevin Moffitt, president and chief executive officer of Pear Bureau Northwest, the marketing organization representing USA Pears, said in a press release. “At nearly 18 million boxes, we expect a high-quality crop in promotable numbers.”

Harvest is expected to be close to historical average pick dates, which is later than the last two seasons. Starkrimson are expected in early August with Bartlett harvest expected in late August. Anjou, Bosc and Comice will be harvested beginning in September through early October. Concorde, Forelle and Seckel will be picked in September and October, across the four growing districts.

The estimates for leading varieties include 8.9 million standard boxes for Green Anjou (about 51 percent of the total Northwest fresh pear crop), 4.4 million standard boxes of Bartlett (25 percent of the total crop) and 2.2 million Bosc (13 percent of the total crop.) Red Anjou will represent 6 percent of the crop, with a potential 1.1 million standard boxes.

Green Anjou pears are showing a projected crop increase of 7 percent compared with a smaller crop in 2016. Growers estimate that the Bartlett pear crop will be down 4 percent compared with last season, which is a 2 percent drop off of a five-year average. The Bosc pear crop is estimated to be well short of average, while Red Anjou production is expected to be 10 percent higher than last year and 6 percent above the five-year average.

The organic pear estimate came in at 1.12 million standard boxes (25,000 metric tons), 6.4 percent of the total Northwest crop. This number is lower than 2016 season by 5.5 percent, but shows a 10.5 percent growth over the five-year average for the Northwest.

The organic Green Anjou crop is expected to be 470,000 standard boxes, while the Bartlett and Bosc crop sizes are estimated at 377,800 and 123,200 standard boxes, respectively.

“Promotion plans for the new season are in place and PBNW regional marketing managers have begun calling on retailers across the United States and Canada, analyzing data and developing programs to optimize the retailers’ pear category,” Moffitt added.

Display and promotion opportunities will begin in the fall with early-season programs, leading to promotion support all season long.

Across the United States and Canada, consumer outreach will focus on the health benefits of eating pears and the versatility of a ripe, sweet, juicy pear from Washington and Oregon.

Pears have the most fiber per serving of the leading 20 fruits by sales in the produce department, and the importance of fiber on gut health, heart health and weight maintenance will top discussions with consumers and nutrition influencers in 2017-18.

Marketing communication plans focus on inspiring consumers to add pears to their grocery lists, purchase a variety of pears and repurchase pears on their next shopping trip.

Key waves for media outreach will focus on Fiber-Full Pears and Pear Swap recipes, designed to encourage buying and eating more pears.

Pear Bureau Northwest’s long-range planning for nutrition research will focus on the role pears play in gut health and health maintenance, working with academic advisors in nutrition to further research the benefits that drive nutrition communication outreach.

The export market typically accounts for around 39-45 percent of the total sales in a given season, including Mexico and Canada as the biggest markets, as reported by Global Trade Atlas.

PBNW activities are coordinated to help increase grower returns across nearly 30 countries worldwide. The program targets both consumers and trade with the goal to create greater demand by increasing awareness on ripening, varieties, nutrition and usage.

Activities in top markets, including Mexico, Central America, India, Middle East and Asia, will include in-store sampling, nutrition workshops, consumer advertising, movie promotional tie-ins, social media and event activations. Larger-scale special activities for the 2017-18 season include a USA Pears Road Show in India and a Luchador (Mexican wrestling) themed nutrition promotion for kids and families in Mexico. 

Mexico is the industry’s largest export market, and PBNW uses its proprietary retail pear category data to identify the opportunities for new varieties, size and grades of Northwest pears with the major retailers.

“The PBNW meeting concluded with a strong industry commitment to continue to deliver exceptional and consistent eating quality for consumers, from the first Bartlett and Starkrimson to the last Green Anjou. The industry is comprised of nearly 900 family growers, with 50 packing houses and 12 shipping organizations determined to produce the finest pears in the world with a taste profile that surpasses any and all SKUs in the produce department,” Moffitt said.