(Jan. 2) Pear shippers continue to enjoy strong demand for promotable supplies of bartletts, anjous and boscs, and they don’t expect that to change in the New Year.

“Pears for us have been very, very good, and we expect more of the same over the next month,” Robb Myers, domestic sales manager for Columbia Marketing International Inc, Wenatchee, Wash., said Dec. 28. “Overall condition is very good, and we’ve seen great color on the boscs.”

Supply was having trouble keeping pace with demand, said Tracy King, director of marketing for Wenatchee, Wash.-based Dovex Fruit Co.

“We’ve seen good movement on pears — almost too good,” King said. “They’re flying out the door. There’s a potential for shortages, but that’s a good problem to have in our industry.”

Once the Southern Hemisphere deals get into full swing in March and April, however, there should be enough product in the marketplace to meet demand, King said.

Helping to drive demand is the increased use of pears as a gourmet item often paired with wine and cheese, said King and Roger Pepperl, marketing director at Stemilt Growers Inc., Wenatchee, Wash.

Two other factors were contributing to the strong 2007-08 season, Pepperl said. It has been a vintage year for quality and sizing, with product peaking in the retail-friendly 70, 80 and 90 sizes, he said.

Also, Stemilt has been able to mix in a steady stream of red bartletts, red anjous, concords and other specialty pears this season, he said. And he expects more of the same, with January the perfect month for retailers to promote several varieties in the category, before bartletts phase out and other fruits begin competing for shelf space.

“We’re really having fun with pears this year,” Pepperl said.

On Jan. 2, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported prices out of Washington’s Yakima Valley of $20-22 for 4/5-bushel cartons of U.S. No. 1 wrapped anjous size 70-90, $19-20 for size 100 and $17-19 for 110-120s. Boscs brought $24 for size 70-90 and $20 for 100s. Controlled-storage bartletts brought $20-22 for 70-90s, $17-18 for 100s and $15-17 for 110s.