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Big things expected for California pears

At the end of June the California Pear Advisory Board, located in Sacramento, CA, released estimates that this year’s California pear crop will come in at around 3.27 million 36-pound boxes, an increase of 36 percent from last year’s 2.4 million.

This impressive increase can be attributed to more favorable weather in just about all the growing districts, which is a great sign for the industry overall. It’s expected that this year’s pear crop will be the best it’s been in terms of volume since 2013.Bartlett-5

Since that time, some of the pear acreage in the Sacramento Delta has been transitioned to wine grapes, tree removal to combat fire blight disease impacted things in 2015, and periods of drought and warmer winters overall have made for a lighter fruit set.

Pear farmers in the state average production of around 150,000 tons of pears per year. While the predominant variety grown in California is the Bartlett — Bartletts lead the pear category, accounting for 38 percent of total category sales — varieties such as Bosc, Comice, French Butter, Forelle, Seckel, Sunsprite and Red Pear are all gaining in popularity.

Larelle Miller, sales manager for David J. Elliot & Son/DE Orchards LP, based in Courtland, CA, said it will be a strong year for California Bartletts, especially. However, due to a heat wave in the area at the end of June, the start of the season will be delayed about 10 days.

“The last 10 days of this heat wave was pretty significant and that delayed the start of the season,” she said. “Other than that, the rains we had in the late winter and early spring were definitely beneficial for the crop.”

In March, the California Department of Food & Agriculture announced that 100 percent of California pear producers voted to continue the California Pear Advisory Board, understanding its important role for the industry.

“California pear growers are a close-knit group of competitors who have banded together under the pear board,” said Richard Elliot, owner of Stillwater Orchards in Courtland, CA. “Ours is one of the many pear farming families who support the activities of the pear board and value the services it provides to the California pear industry.”

The California Pear Advisory Board offers a slew of tips for retailers to maximize pear category sales and performance. For example, it says that display appearance is vital, and retailers must ensure that Bartletts receive proper conditioning and handling for optimum sales and good shelf life — three out of four consumers prefer Bartletts with “more yellow, less green” color.

The organization also said that more frequent, less aggressive promotions work better than less frequent, more aggressive promotions, citing that frequent Bartlett promotions averaged a 96 percent category lift at average ad price discounts, compared to a 51 percent lift from less frequent promotions at deeper discounts.