In February, asian pear supplies are expected to begin shifting from California to Chile, where supplies to the U.S. could be down 10-15% this season.

Vancouver, British Columbia-based The Oppenheimer Group expects its first Chilean asian pears of the season to be on U.S. retail shelves by late February, said David Nelley, the company’s apple and pear category director.

Oppenheimer expects to ship about 100,000 boxes of Chilean asian pears this season, about the same as last year, Nelley said. As happened last year, shipments of New Zealand asian pears to North America will likely be minimal because of an unfavorable exchange rate and South Pacific demand.

Madera, Calif.-based Western Fresh Marketing Inc. expects to begin bringing in Chilean asian pears about the week of Feb. 20, right on time, said Chris Kragie, sales manager.

Western Fresh, which wrapped up its California asian pear deal in January, expects to import about 175,000 boxes from Chile this season, about 25% more than last season, Kragie said.

Industry-wide, however, Kragie expects Chilean asian pear shipments to the U.S. to be down 10-15% this season.

Markets for Chilean fruit would likely start strong and gradually weaken as volumes increased, Kragie said.

On Feb. 7, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported prices of $13-14 for California hosuis 10-12s, comparable to last year at the same time.

World Variety Produce Inc., Los Angeles, which markets under the Melissa’s brand, expects to begin shipping Chilean asian pears in late March or early April. Although the company typically doesn’t see a gap when the transition is made, there will be about two weeks after the end of the California deal before Chilean product is available, said Robert Schueller, director of public relations.

“Typically we don’t see a gap,” Schueller said.

To help fill the gap, World Variety will still be shipping Korean pears, which are similar to asian hosuis but considerably larger, Schueller said.

Despite the late start to the Chilean deal, quality is expected to be excellent and volumes and size profile normal, Schueller said.

More U.S. retailers will likely promote Chilean asian pears in 4- and 6-count clamshells this year to better protect fruit, Nelley said.

Oppenheimer expects a similar mix of varieties out of Chile this year, with clear-skinned shinseikis shipping first, Nelley said. Brown-skinned hosuis will follow shortly thereafter, to be followed by clear-skinned nigiseikis in March and shinkos in late April.

Shinkos will likely ship into June, the month new-crop California asian pears are likely to start shipping, Nelley said.

Hot growing weather in December and January in Chile could mean smaller-sized fruit at the beginning of the export deal, but quality was excellent, Nelley said.

Kragie also reported good quality on early-season fruit. Western Fresh expects to ship Chilean asian pears through late June.