Shippers of Northwest pears expect strong demand and aggressive promotions when a big crop of high-quality fruit begins shipping in volume in September, a week to 10 days later than normal.

An estimated 19.2 million boxes of pears will ship from the Northwest this year, but Loren Queen, marketing and communications manager for Yakima, Wash.-based Domex Superfresh Growers, isn’t worried about having too much fruit to move.

“We have a good-sized crop and we’re excited about it,” Queen said. “We’re looking forward to strong pull in the fall with really good fruit.”

Bob Mast, vice president of marketing for Wenatchee, Wash.-based Columbia Marketing International Inc., agreed.

“It’s really a perfect year for retailers to get jazzed about marketing pears,” he said. “I think they’re primed to get their fall displays going, and there should be really strong demand at the beginning.”

On Aug. 9, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported a price of $27 for 40-pound boxes of bartlett 70s from California, up from $24-25 last year at the same time.

Suzanne Wolter, director of marketing for Yakima, Wash.-based Rainier Fruit Co., also expects strong demand. Much of that will be driven by what should be exceptional quality.

“There’s a saying that ‘As cherries go, so goes everything that follows,’ and the cherries have been fantastic,” Wolter said.

Pears, like cherries, thrive during summers when it’s relatively cool, as this summer has been, she said.

Rainier expects to begin shipping bartletts in volume right after Sept. 1, anjous in volume by Sept. 22 and boscs and red anjous in volume by about Sept. 27, Wolter said.

Quality should be outstanding this season, Queen agreed.

“It’s clean, beautiful-looking fruit,” he said. “It should be a very good-eating crop.”

The week of Aug. 8 the season was still running a week or so behind normal, Queen said. Domex expected to begin shipping bartletts Aug. 25 and anjous Sept. 8.

Columbia expects to begin shipping bartletts about Sept. 1, with red bartletts set to follow about Sept. 8. Anjous should begin the third week of September, followed by boscs and red anjous five to seven days later, Mast said.

Because of heavy sets, fruit was sizing half-a-size or a size smaller than normal in early August, Queen said. That could change, though, with optimal growing weather in August.

“We’re cautiously optimistic that sizing will come up a bit,” he said. “It’s been between 88 and 93, which is perfect.”

Fruit was running a size or two smaller than usual in early August, Wolter said, but there was still plenty of time for warmer weather to get it caught up.

“We’re not concerned about size,” she said.

Mast expected a normal mix of sizes, with excellent quality and appearance.

“It’s one of the cleaner years we’ve had,” he said.