(July 23) Weather problems cut into last year’s Pacific Northwest pear volume, but the preliminary forecast for 2007 indicates retailers can expect a bigger crop of high-quality pears.

The forecast is for 18 million 44-pound cartons, said Kevin Moffitt, president and chief executive officer of the Pear Bureau Northwest, Milwaukie, Ore. That’s 8% above the 2006 deal of 16.7 million cartons and 4% above the district’s five-year average, he said.

“We’re anticipating a broader range of sizes this year, which should boost exports,” Moffitt said.

European and Asian customers tend to prefer smaller sizes, which are usually priced lower, he said.

Growers are predicting a particularly large bartlett crop. As a result, Moffitt said the Pear Bureau is ramping up its marketing efforts in India, Russia and New Zealand — relatively new markets for Pacific Northwest pears — and in Brazil, Canada and Mexico, traditionally leading export countries for the fruit. Grower-shippers are packing the pears in modified-atmosphere bags, which Moffitt said extend shelf life.

Though the supply is larger, Moffitt said he expected 2007 to be a win-win season for farmers and retailers.

“I think we’re going to get decent prices for our growers and still provide a fair return for retailers,” he said.

Plenty of larger sizes will be available for domestic retailers, Moffitt said. The Pear Bureau has developed a full range of promotions for the retailers, he said.