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This press note is a condensed version of the article originally published in the Yakima Herald-Republic on Wednesday, September 20, 2023, authored by Joel Donofrio.

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All rights reserved. Copyright 2023 Yakima Herald-Republic Inc.

Pear Growers Expanding Offerings

As new varieties of apples have increased their presence in Washington orchards and on the nation’s grocery store shelves, pear growers in the Yakima Valley are slowly but surely expanding their offerings. While Bartletts, Boscs, and Anjou's remain the dominant types of pears grown in the region, specialty pears such as Comice, Seckel, Forelle, and Concorde have also made their way into area orchards.

Varietal Development as a Priority

The pear industry is following the trend seen in apples, with more club varieties and new varieties being introduced. Jon DeVaney, president of the Washington Tree Fruit Association, stated that varietal development is a priority for the pear industry. Planting has already begun for some of the newer pear varieties. However, pear trees grow more slowly and take longer to establish compared to apple trees, so the trend of introducing new pear varieties is slower.

Growing Demand for Organic Pears

Organic pears are also gaining traction in the industry, with approximately 12.5% of this year's Northwest pear crop being produced and marketed as organic. Meeting consumer demands for organic produce is an important aspect of the industry's growth.

2023 Crop on Par with Recent Harvests

According to estimates from the Washington Tree Fruit Association, approximately 15.2 million standard box equivalents (44-pound boxes) worth of pears will be harvested this year in Washington and Oregon. This harvest is on par with pear harvests in recent years. Washington and Oregon are home to 87% of the U.S. commercial pear crop.

Consistency in Pear Production

Pears tend to be more consistent in their production compared to other agricultural crops. While weather conditions can influence pear production, they do not experience the biannual bearing phenomenon seen in some apple varieties. This consistency makes pears a reliable crop for growers.

Marketing and Education for Fresh Pears

The Washington State Tree Fruit Association (WSTFA) plays a role in marketing and educating consumers about fresh pears. They provide online recipes for incorporating pears into meals and desserts and educate consumers on how to determine when a pear is ripe and ready to eat. Unlike apples, pears need a few days to fully ripen after purchase.

Export Markets for Northwest Pears

Mexico remains the top export market for pears from the Northwest, with Canada being another popular destination. Anjou pears are the most popular variety for export, accounting for 74% of all pears shipped. Mexico receives the majority of Anjou pears, followed by Canada. The Caribbean region, South America, and Central America are also popular destinations for Northwest pears.

Stability in Pear Exports

Despite challenges such as exchange rates and supply chain disruptions, pear exports have seen a 5.3% increase between the 2021-22 and 2022-23 growing seasons. The ratification of a revised NAFTA agreement has provided stability for pear exports to Mexico, the top export market.

Overall, the pear industry in the Yakima Valley is expanding its offerings, focusing on varietal development, meeting organic demands, and maintaining consistency in production. The industry is also actively promoting fresh pears and exploring export markets to ensure the growth and profitability of the sector.

VIZIONS economic development center

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