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California is golden as growers move into pear production season

California pear growers couldn't have ordered up better conditions for the 2013 production season.

"[The 2013 crop] is progressing well," said Kyle Persky, sales manager at Scully Packing Co. LLC. "We have had no major issues affecting the crop."

David Thiessen, sales manager for David J. Elliot & Sons Co. in Courtland, CA, agreed. "Weather has been pretty much perfect for growing pears," he told The Produce News.

OpenerShot-PearsCalifornia pear producers are expecting a favorable season in 2013. Good weather conditions are pointing to good volume and quality fruit. (Photo courtesy of David J. Elliot & Sons Co.)Scully Packing is headquartered in Finley, CA. The company was created in 1984 to handle pear production from a select group of growers from all major pear producing districts in Northern California. According to the company's website, "Beginning with less than 200,000 packages its first year, the company has had steady growth to its current annual production of about one million packages."

Persky said the company grows and markets a full pear manifest including Bartlett, Bosc, Crimson, Forelle and Comice.

Because weather conditions have been so favorable, Persky said the harvest will ramp up a week to 10 days ahead of last year's schedule. Activity in the River District will begin in early July with initial shipments moving the week of July 8. The Mountain District harvest will begin approximately three weeks later. Pears from the Mountain District comprise the majority of the company's volume.

In addition to conventional pears, Scully Packing has been packing and marketing organic Bartletts from Lake County for the past five to six years. "Organic demand has been steady and increasing for us over the years," Persky stated.

The full crop will be marketed July through October. "The season is looking good," he went on to say about quality. Sizes are expected to peak on 90s, 100s and 110s.

With Anjou supplies cleaning out from the Pacific Northwest, Persky said the transition to California pears will be smooth.

Pears are marketed under the "First Lady, "Lake County Diamond" and "Snow Mountain" labels. "Our policy of using separate labels to identify the district origin of our Bartlett pear pack enables customers to avoid any confusion regarding origin of the fruit," the company's website states.

In addition to domestic sales, Persky said, "We do quite a bit of export." Canada and Mexico are strong markets for Scully Packing. Emerging export markets include South America, Central America and the Far East. "China is a new potential market we haven't had before," he added.

Persky said the company maintains the highest food safety standards to satisfy its customers. The packing facility undergoes yearly inspections and conforms to U.S. Department of Agriculture's Good Agricultural Practices.

Additionally, Scully Packing is third-party audited by Primus Labs. The company also meets protocols established by California Certified Organic Farmers.

David J. Elliot & Sons Co. grows and markets Bartlett, Golden Bosc, Comice, French Butter, Seckel, Taylors Gold, Forelle and red varieties from operations in the Sacramento River Delta.

"The Elliot family has been farming pears for over 150 years - six generations - and still has complete control of everything we pack and sell from orchard to marketing as we have no outside growers," Thiessen commented.

Pears are coming off early this season. "The timing this year will be closer to a traditional start date since the last two years have been later than 'normal,' " he said. "We expect to start our first red pear, Stark Crimson, by July 3 or 4, and Bartletts will follow by the 8th to the 10th. Since most of the first week's Bartlett harvest will be preconditioned to enhance ripening, actual shipments will likely start toward the end of the week of July 8."

David J. Elliot continues with the transition of some of its pear acreage to organic production. "We plan to start offering organic in 2014," Thiessen noted.

The company's overall 2013 volume is expected to be up approximately 15 percent when compared to last season. Thiessen attributed the increase to a "larger yield per acre and adding additional acreage this year."

Pears are marketed under the "Daily," "Delta" and "Have One" labels. According to Thiessen,

Some 70 percent of volume is sold to the company's retail customers, with the balance split between wholesale and foodservice.

Last season, David J. Elliot exported nearly 30 percent of its total pear volume. "The major markets are still Canada, Mexico and Central America," Thiessen stated. "With China opening up for U.S. pears this year, I'm sure the whole industry will be looking toward China as a potential market as well."

This is the second year the company will be using its new cold storage facility. "[It] gives us a room specifically dedicated to preconditioning at the start of the season as well as greatly increased pre-cool capacity to enable us to cool fruit quicker, adding shelf life," Thiessen said. "Additionally this year, we have added new, state-of-the-art fruit handling equipment that will prevent bruising and improve fruit finish. We have also added additional cold storage equipment which prevents decay."