(Aug. 14, 1:42 p.m.) A projected smaller pear crop in Europe could pay dividends for U.S. exporters this season.

Mostly because of spring freezes, production in Europe is expected to be down about 14%, according to the Brussels, Belgium-based World Apple and Pear Association.

With U.S. pear exporters already reaping the trade benefits of a deflated U.S. currency, the projection comes as more good news, said Kevin Moffitt, president and chief executive officer of the Pear Bureau Northwest, Milwaukie, Ore.

“It’s all very encouraging for us,” he said. “We think we see some opportunities, especially with the weaker dollar.”

More U.S. shipments possible

Production of the conference pear, the No. 1 European variety in Sweden and Germany — the top two U.S. export markets — is down even more, at 22%, Moffitt said. That could open the door wider for increased shipments of U.S. product to those two countries this year, he said.

Lower production in Europe also could be a boon for more U.S. fruit shipping to Russia, an ever-expanding market, Moffitt said.

“Russia has been just a huge market, and this could potentially open up more demand there for high-quality pears,” he said.

Artem Ionista, operations manager for exporter New Edge International, Edgewater, N.J., said the smaller European crop would likely push up the dates on which Russian importers begin bringing in American pears. The U.S. deal typically begins around the New Year in Russia.

Moffitt, who attended the Prognosfruit Conference in England the week of Aug. 4, where the World Apple and Pear Association figures were released, also reported increased demand among the English, Germans and Russians for red pear varieties, of which the U.S. is the largest supplier.

Russia's regulations

At that conference, industry members expressed concern about new Russian regulations on pesticide levels on imported pears.

So far, those regulations seem to be affecting European shippers but not U.S. shippers, Moffitt said. Ionista said the regulations had had no effect on California pears exported to Russia by his company this season.

But the regulatory trend among the Russians was not encouraging, Moffitt said.

“They seem to be taking action sporadically, which is definitely a disturbing trend if they expand beyond Codex,” he said.

Codex is an international body that develops pesticide residue standards, Moffitt said.