Importers of South American pipfruit expect good quality and normal volumes when deals get underway in late January and February.

Demand should be strong out of the gate for williams pears out of Argentina, said Robb Myers, domestic sales manager for Columbia Marketing International Corp., Wenatchee, Wash.

Columbia Marketing expects to receive its first batch of williamses in mid-February, a typical start date, Myers said. Sizing could be an issue on Argentinian pears this season, he said.

“They’re down quite a bit on 90s and larger, which are the predominant (sizes) that come to the U.S.”

With the Northwest bartletts cleaning up in an orderly fashion in January, demand should be good, he said.

Columbia Marketing will be more careful, however, when it comes to importing later Chilean varieties, Myers said.

“There’s still a good supply of boscs in Washington,” he said. “We don’t want to add to the mountain we already have.”

Los Angeles-based Bengard Marketing expected to bring in its first Chilean pears in late January, also a typical start to the deal, said Broc Bengard, vice president.

Bengard expects a slower start than normal, thanks to abundant supplies of domestic fruit.

“The northwest crop has been a little heavier for small-size fruit,” he said.

Argentinian williamses are expected to follow for Bengard Marketing in about mid-February, also on time.

On Jan. 24, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported a price of $20 for 4/5-bushel cartons of anjous 70-90s from Washington, down from $22-24 last year at the same time.

Apples

Columbia Marketing expects to start bringing in galas from Chile in mid-April, though other importers will kick off their deals considerably earlier, Myers said.

The company’s export partner, Santiago-based Unifrutti, reported normal volumes and size profile this season, Myers said.

Columbia Marketing also plans to import Chilean fujis, Pink Ladys and Ambrosias and, to a lesser extent, granny smiths. Ambrosia volumes are expected to be up significantly for the company this season, Myers said.

“We brought in three containers last year, this year we’re hoping for 20 to 30.”

Columbia Marketing plans to bring in similar volumes of Chilean apples as last season, despite a big Washington crop, Myers said. But the company will only bring in apples for program sales. Myers said he hopes other companies will join Columbia Marketing in avoiding spot-market sales.

“I hope people don’t get too crazy,” he said.

Bengard Marketing expects to begin bringing in galas, its first Chilean apple of the season, in March or April, Bengard said.

On Jan. 24, the USDA reported prices of $26-28 for tray packs of galas 72-88s from Washington, up from $20-22 last year at the same time.