(Nov. 16) Summer hailstorms reduced supplies and strengthened markets for Northwest pears, but grower-shippers said there should be enough product to satisfy demand through next spring.

The Northwest anjou crop is down about 14% due to a hailstorm in and near Cashmere, Wash., in early July, said Neil Galone, vice president of marketing for Diamond Fruit Growers Inc., Odell, Ore. That created strong demand throughout the pear category, he said.

“That reduction created good demand for anjous, and it also seemed to roll over to the other varieties,” he said.

With apple volumes down even more than pear volumes, this season represents an opportunity for grocers to cash in on pears, said Bob Mast, marketing director for Columbia Marketing International, Wenatchee.

“Pears tend to play second fiddle to apples,” he said. “There’s a chance this year for retailers to put more emphasis on pears. The pear market’s been fairly strong, and I think it will stay pretty darn strong throughout.”

Increased export demand for U.S. pears also should contribute to continued strong markets, Mast said.

On Nov. 14, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported a price of $22 for 4/5 bushel cartons of wrapped bartletts 70-80s from Washington, up from $18-20 last year at the same time last season.

Anjou 70-80s from Washington were selling for $22-24, up from $17-18 last year. Bosc 70-90s from Washington were $18-20, down from $22 last year.

Steve Terry, general manager of Chelan Fresh Marketing, Chelan, Wash., also reported good movement of not only the hard-hit anjou crop but also of bartletts.

“California is done, so demand for bartletts is really taking off,” he said.

The only pears off to a slow start this fall are boscs, Terry said, probably due to their also being grown on the East Coast.

Diamond Fruit Growers, whose anjou crop was spared by the hail and should be a normal size this year, should have enough pears to supply demand through April or May, Galone said.