Jul 2, 2013
China could be huge market for U.S. pears

U.S. pear shipments to China have started small, but the country has the potential to become the third largest export market for the Pacific Northwest industry, according to Jeff Correa, international marketing director for Pear Bureau Northwest (PBN).

Since the first shipment of U.S. pears arrived in China in February, Northwest shippers have shipped more than 8,000 boxes (44-pound equivalent) to the country. It wasn’t as many as the 20,000 or so boxes PBN had hoped for by mid-year, but shipments started late in the season and U.S. shippers were a little more cautious than expected. After 19 years of trying to crack the Chinese market, they didn’t want to risk getting off on the wrong foot by sending possibly decayed fruit, Correa said.

In the coming season, Northwest shippers hope to export 120,000 to 150,000 boxes of pears to China, which would be about 2 percent of total Northwest exports. Within a decade, the Northwest industry could be shipping 500,000 to 600,000 boxes to China, which would make it the top export market after Mexico and Canada, he said.

PBN, the Northwest Horticultural Council and USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service worked together to open the Chinese market to U.S. pears since the official request was made in 1994. Once achieved, PBN’s marketing strategy initially focused on northern China, specifically the Beijing area – where people are most familiar with Western pear varieties. Further south, in the Shanghai and Guangzhou regions, people aren’t as familiar with Western pears, and marketing activities will have to focus on consumer education. U.S. pears are a little more delicate than Chinese pears and generally need more time to ripen, Correa said.

China could be the top export market for red pears (like Starkrimson and Red Anjou) within a year or two. Red-colored pears have a special status in Chinese culture, often used as gifts and during festivals, he said.

PBN will engage in export promotions in 38 countries this season. Besides Mexico and Canada, other top export markets for U.S. pears include Russia, Brazil, Colombia, the United Arab Emirates, Hong Kong and India, according to the bureau.

The Pacific Northwest pear industry, responsible for 84 percent of the U.S. fresh crop, is expecting to produce about 19.8 million boxes (436,410 tons) for the fresh market this season, which would make it the third largest pear crop on record, according to PBN.

Average harvest timing is expected, beginning in early August and ending about mid-October. Fruit quality was excellent, with no significant weather issues affecting the crop as of early June. The top three varieties in terms of production are Green Anjou (53 percent of the total crop) Bartlett (22 percent) and Bosc (15 percent), according to PBN.

“This year’s crop looks to be of very manageable size,” said Kevin Moffitt, PBN’s president. “With no major weather issues to date, the industry is projecting a crop with excellent quality and fruit size to meet the demands of the domestic and export markets.”

– Matt Milkovich





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