Demand for Southern Hemisphere pears should be strong this season, with the domestic bartlett season winding down quickly.

South American bartletts should find a nice niche in the U.S. market when they begin arriving in mid-February, said Randy Steensma, president and export marketing director for Nuchief Sales Inc., Wenatchee, Wash.

“It should work out well with the Washington program,” Steensma said. “It’s a very clean crop, and they say they have good size. And there should be orderly demand. We don’t expect a big flood of product.”

David Nelley, apple and pear category director for The Oppenheimer Group, Vancouver, British Columbia, agreed that demand should be brisk for Argentinean bartletts.

“We think they’ll arrive to a good market,” he said. “Bartletts are getting short.”

Domestic Bartletts were in such short supply in late January, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s weekly trends report did not report prices for them.

On Jan. 25, the USDA reported prices of $22-24 for 4/5-bushel cartons of Washington anjous 70-100s, up from $16-18 last year at the same time.

Cartons of Washington boscs 70-90s were $22, up from $18-20 last year at the same time.

The first vessel of bartletts is expected to arrive on the east coast on Feb. 18, Nelley said. Fruit could be on the small side, with sizes peaking on 100s and 110s. Argentina’s pear production is expected to be up 10-14% this season.

Recent strikes by Argentinian pickers and packers delayed shipments only slightly, Nelley said. The strikes were resolved by late January.

Juan Pablo Vicuna, president of Santiago-based Dole Chile SA, said the Chilean pear deal was running about 3 to 5 days later than normal. 

Bartletts should dominate the import deal until about mid-April, when packhams, mainly from Argentina, begin to take over, Nelley said.

Chilean pear exports should be up in 2011, Vicuna said. He expected 9 to 10 million boxes to ship, up from the 8.7-million box average over the past four seasons.

“We had a very good spring, with a high percentage of flowers setting,” he said.

In early January Chilean growers began harvesting bartletts and coscias, Vicuna said. Growers expected abundant supplies of mid-sized fruit.

Because of low russeting, volumes of New Zealand taylor’s gold pears could be down significantly this season, Nelley said. The variety is expected to be available in the U.S. from May 1 through July.