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Northwest pear growers forecast a full-size crop from Washington and Oregon

Representatives of the Northwest pear industry met last week in Portland, OR, to project the size of the 2013 fresh pear harvest. With reports of an excellent-quality crop from the Pacific Northwest growing regions of Wenatchee and Yakima, WA, and Mid-Columbia and Medford, OR, the total projection is showing approximately 19.8 million standard 44-pound box equivalents (or 436,410 tons) of pears for the fresh market. This estimate is 4 percent larger than the five-year average and 2 percent larger than last year’s crop, which would make the forthcoming crop the third-largest on record.

Average harvest timing is expected, beginning in early August with the Starkrimson variety being picked first followed by Bartletts. Winter pear varieties — Anjou, Bosc, Comice, Concorde, Forelle and Seckel — will be picked from early September through mid-October. The quality of the fruit looks excellent, with no significant weather issues affecting the crop to date.

Green Anjou pears, the most abundantly grown variety in the Pacific Northwest, are showing a projected increase of 3 percent when compared to 2012, which makes for a Green Anjou crop size that is 2 percent larger than the five-year average. Bartlett pears are projected to decrease by 5 percent when compared to last season’s large crop, but the crop yield will still be 9 percent larger than the five-year average.

Growers are expecting the Bosc pear crop to increase by 7 percent over last year’s yield. The size of the Red Anjou pear crop is expected to increase by 6 percent, which would make it 14 percent larger than the five-year average crop size for that variety. Growers are projecting the yield to double for other red winter pears, including varieties like the Red Angelo, for an increase of 104 percent when compared to the 2012 yield, a 76 percent increase over the five-year average.

The top three varieties in terms of production remain the same as in previous years; Green Anjou pears are anticipated to make up 53 percent of the total crop, and Bartlett and Bosc pears are expected to yield 22 percent and 15 percent respectively.

In terms of organic pear production, projections show that the Pacific Northwest will continue its overall growth trend this season with a total of 869,885 standard 44-pound box equivalents (19,785 tons) of organic pears in the 2013 harvest, an increase of 3 percent when compared to 2012 and a 14 percent increase over the five-year average.

The Green Anjou and Bartlett remain the most abundant two organic pear varieties, with the Green Anjou projected yield at 381,500 organic standard 44-pound box equivalents, and the Green Bartlett estimated at 285,600 for 2013.

“This year’s crop looks to be of very manageable size,” said Kevin Moffitt, Pear Bureau Northwest’s president and chief executive officer. “With no major weather issues to date, the industry is projecting a crop with excellent quality and fruit size to meet the demands of the domestic and export markets. A full range of promotions are planned as well as consumer advertising, social media and PR to continue to expand consumer awareness and demand.”

Key areas in this season’s domestic marketing program include consumer advertising designed to help raise awareness about pear ripening and usage, and a strong season-long retail push beginning with tactics to support the crop as soon as marketable volumes are available. The Pear Bureau will continue to use its comprehensive, proprietary pear category data to custom-tailor merchandising and promotional plans for retailers nationwide. An integrated PR and communications program supports retail promotions with ongoing activities emphasizing nutrition, recipe development for both consumers and foodservice, and by continuing to grow the online presence for USA Pears on www.usapears.org and among social media outlets.

The Pear Bureau will engage in export promotions in 38 countries worldwide, with 18 international marketing representatives coordinating promotions for USA Pears with activities targeted for each country’s market. The top export markets for USA Pears will remain Mexico, Canada, Russia, Brazil, Colombia, the UAE, Hong Kong and India, which is one of the stronger growth markets for the industry.

Special promotions are planned for the Chinese market, which granted access to USA Pears for the very first time in February 2013 and is expected to become a top 10 market for the Northwest pear industry within the next three years.

The Pear Bureau will also continue its partnership with Fox Pictures and Universal Pictures in conducting joint promotions in Mexico and Central America. During these promotions, the Pear Bureau helps promote a kid-friendly movie like Despicable Me or Epic via billboards and in-store promotions. In return, the Pear Bureau receives usage rights of the characters for the billboards, point-of-sale materials and bags. In addition, season-long marketing programs will be customized for retailers in Mexico, using the Pear Bureau’s proprietary pear category data system, which provides insight specific to the Mexican market.