(July 10) MILWAUKIE, Ore. — Industry estimates call for the Northwest bartlett crop to reach total packouts of 2.84 million boxes 44-pound boxes, the lowest since 1998, according to the Pear Bureau Northwest.

Still, overall production on the West Coast is expected to increase. California’s bartlett pear crop began harvest July 7 and should reach full production by July 15 at the latest. The crop estimate calls for 4.3 million 36-pound boxes, said Chris Zanobini, executive director of the California Pear Advisory Board, Sacramento.

“The crops looking good. We’ve got high sugars,” he said.

California’s early markets could be affected by remaining volumes of Northwest anjous harvested last fall, said Gerry Jessup, vice president of marketing for Diamond Fruit Growers Inc., Hood River, Ore.

Bo Slack, director of marketing for Peshastin Hi-Up Growers, Peshastin, Wash., said he agreed, citing expected price variations between the anjou holdings and the upcoming California bartletts.

As of June 21, the Northwest still had 454,000 boxes of anjous to sell, Jessup said. The same time last year, stocks on hand totaled just 63,000. When California harvests its bartletts, it will find a fair amount of pears already on the market, he said, also citing remaining volumes of packham pears from Chile and Argentina.

California’s lack of cannery markets also could send more of the state’s volumes to the fresh market, Slack said.

Slack said he didn’t expect the Northwest’s anjous to overlap with its bartletts. Jessup said the bartlett harvest to begin lightly Aug. 19 and enter substantial volumes by Aug. 23 to Aug. 28.

Early on, the industry will pick heavy for controlled-atmosphere storage, which should limit volumes for the fresh market, he said.

Last year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported the following Aug. 20 f.o.b.s for standard cartons of U.S. No. 1 Northwest bartletts: 70s-90s $22-23, 100s $18, 110s $16 and 120s $14.

SIZES

Sizing this season should peak on 90s and 100s for bartletts, said Roger Pepperl, director of marketing for Stemilt Growers Inc., Wenatchee, Wash.

Last year, the industry peaked on 80s, Jessup said. This year, peak sizing will depend on weather during the two weeks before harvest.

Slack cited problems with pollination that could cause the Northwest bartlett crop to fall short of its estimate by 5% to 10%. Frosts came in the spring as the fruit was forming, but damage should be limited to smaller pockets of production, Pepperl said.

The Washington Pear Growers Association, Wenatchee, a marketing cooperative formed last year, will meet July 18 to further evaluate the crop, said Chuck Underwood, salesman for Columbia Marketing International Corp., Wenatchee.

The bureau’s next revision of the estimate will take place Aug. 28, said Kevin Moffitt, president. Because of the early emphasis on CA storage and California’s earlier start to the deal, the Northwest won’t be heavy into Labor Day promotions, Gessup said.

PROMOTIONS PROMISED

Moffitt said the bureau would make sure the fruit is well-promoted in the fall.

“Many promotions will revolve around back-to-school programs in September, with multi-variety promotions set for October and November,” Moffitt said. “We have been working hard to ensure retailers stock all varieties available, including bartletts and anjous when the anjou deal gets on track in late September, early October.”

Because of their struggling economies, countries such as Brazil imported fewer anjous from the Northwest this season, Jessup said. Sales to Mexico also were down because of increased competition from Argentina and Chile, which sold more pears, mostly packhams, to the Mexican market.

“But the big culprit was the domestic movement,” he said, noting that U.S. movement was down 400,000 boxes as of June 21, compared to the same time last year.

That was the case, even though volumes of imported pears into the U.S. decreased this year by 200,000 boxes as of June 21, he said.

“It just seemed that this year the pear movement flatlined,” Jessup said.

A weakened U.S. and more price-conscious consumers may have played a role.

Increased volumes of other fruits from the Southern Hemisphere into the U.S., including stone fruit and grapes, also may have slowed domestic sales of anjous, he said.