(July 7) MILWAUKIE, Ore. — Following last year’s record production, the Northwest bartlett crop is expected to come in smaller volumes and larger sizes, with harvest beginning one to two weeks early.

“This will be the earliest harvest that most people can remember,” said Kevin Moffitt, president and chief executive officer of the Pear Bureau Northwest.

Bartlett harvest normally begins in mid-August, shippers say. This year, harvests in most districts are expected to start Aug. 1.

Industry estimates call for the crop to reach total packout of 3.45 million 44-pound boxes, about 7% less than last year’s crop, Moffitt said.

Northwest bartletts, which will be shipped through the end of January, are expected to be a little larger this season, Moffitt said. The pears could peak in the 80s, up from the 90s they have peaked at in recent years, he said.

This year’s weather patterns have brought the crop on early with all Northwest districts expected to start closer together without the normal lag, Moffitt said.

California’s river pear district, which started two weeks earlier than normal in early July, will help the Northwest bartlett deal, said Gerry Jessup, vice president of marketing for Diamond Fruit Growers Inc., Odell, Ore.

“That’s huge,” he said. “Those are weeks you don’t get back. Last year, it definitely hurt us when California was as late as they were.”
Shippers say they expect this season’s prices to be higher.

Large sizes should command prices in the high $20s to low $30s, said Roger Pepperl, director of marketing for Stemilt Growers Inc., Wenatchee, Wash.

Last season, Wenatchee Valley shippers received $26-29 for the larger fruit, he said.

The market for Columbia River Gorge area pears last season started around $24 and ended at $18-20 for 90s and larger, Jessup said.

He said he expects opening season prices this year to start in the low $20s.