The global market for pears shows some interesting trends this year, driven by changing priorities and a drop in production in some countries. In the Netherlands, pear growers are cautiously optimistic after a lower European pear harvest forecast, while Belgium foresees a favorable market due to reduced Italian production. Germany has seen the rise of European and Turkish pear batches, outperforming overseas imports. Italy faces a significant drop in production due to adverse weather conditions, leading to potential supply shortages. Spain is witnessing a lively market, driven by strong demand for select pear varieties and boosted by reduced Italian supply. In South Africa, pear exports are expected to be lower than last year, but currency dynamics offer a silver lining. China's pear orchards remain unaffected by floods, and Hebei province anticipates a consistent yield. In North America, Washington's pear crop sees a slight decrease, while Argentina's pear exports shift towards prioritizing nearby Latin American destinations, away from European markets.
Netherlands: High expectations among pear growers after low European harvest forecast
The lower European pear harvest is creating high expectations among Dutch pear growers. "And then there are even noises that forecasts in Belgium are being revised downwards. At the same time, a lot can be shouted, but pears also still have to be sold. That is where we will have to find the middle ground in the coming period between growers' and customers' expectations," observes a Dutch pear seller. "What the season will actually look like will have to be seen in the coming time. But prices will start at a higher level than last year anyway. And retailers also understand that pears will be between 10 and 20 cents more expensive, but a price doubling will not be an issue. The pear still remains a commodity in which a lot of actions are taking place."
"In my view, the biggest challenge is in a totally different supply compared to last year. There is a lot of looking at harvest forecasts, but we also have a completely different size distribution. The pears are coarser and the proportion of Class II will be higher. Last year, almost every batch of pears was suitable for packing for a discount supermarket, but there is now much more distinction between the batches. Because of the greater quality differences, the price per batch will also vary much more. I expect Comice pears to be taken up by Italy in no time this season. I also see a lot of room for the Lukassen pear. When expectations for the Conference pear are high, the Lukassen often runs well."
Belgium: Good harvest forecast and issues in Italy spell good market for Belgian pears
"There is a very nice Belgian harvest coming up," says a Belgian trader. "Looking at the volumes, it varies a bit by region. As with the quality, there are some plots that suffered from the spring frost, so there is a bit less fruit on the trees. However, we are going to see a full harvest in many plots that have been less affected. Combined with lesser forecasts from, in particular, Italy, it is creating a high level of expectation among growers."
"In Italy, much of the crop has failed. I hear from my contacts in Spain that things do look better there than expected in the summer, but with the issues on the Italian market, we have a nice market there. A lot was going to Spain anyway, but Italy can hardly export now either. That creates opportunities in the countries that normally end up with Italian pears."
Germany: European and Turkish batches advantaged over imports from overseas
The presence of Italian, French, Spanish and Turkish products expanded, according to a Federal Institute. French red Williams Christ and Williams Christ from Italy, Germany and France were added to the product range. In terms of quality, the European and Turkish batches certainly had advantages over the imports from overseas. Deficiencies increased for the latter, which is why the South African and Chilean lots often had to be sold at a discount. Overall prices tended downward rather than upward, as demand was not particularly strong. The German Clapps Liebling and Williams Christ have so far made only sporadic appearances and have not gone beyond a supplementary character. In North Germany, the first batches of pears from South Germany were available with good qualities, says a wholesaler. Besides that, pears from Italy and South Africa achieved luxury prices at the wholesale market in Vienna.
France: Lower pear volumes
Forecasts predict a small harvest for French pears this year, due to the rotation phenomenon. 105,000 tons are forecast for the 2023 campaign, down 28% on last year. Some growers (depending on the region) have been affected by adverse weather conditions, in particular hail storms.
The 2023 marketing campaign began at the beginning of August with the Guyot variety. For the time being, consumption is still concentrated on summer fruit but should increase over the coming weeks.
Italy: Drop in production of up to 50%
It is a difficult situation for the pear sector in Italy at the moment. The trend in summer production is already clear, with a drop in production of at least 50%. The president of a producer organisation in northern Italy says that the Carmen and Santa Maria varieties were harvested at the end of July, while William has been harvested since mid-August. Prices are very high because there is not much product, but farmers have no income because yields are very low. And the autumn crop is expected to be even smaller, with a drop of around 80%. This is due to weather conditions such as frost, hail and flooding, but also to diseases caused by the lack of chemical protection.
The data reported by Prognosfruit, which refers to 10 July, shows a clear deficit for Italy, mainly due to the frost at the beginning of April, which seriously affected production. At national level, 187 thousand tonnes are expected, -63% compared to 2022 and -7% compared to 2021, the lowest production ever. These figures do not take into account the further serious damage to crops caused by the extreme weather events in the second half of July. As a result, the share of fresh produce is expected to fall further.
In Emilia Romagna, production was estimated at 105,000 tonnes, more than 60% lower than the previous year and even lower than in 2021. This is also due to the reduction in the area under cultivation, which is particularly marked in the transition from 2022 to 2023. The situation is not good in the other regions of Italy either, where significant declines are recorded.
Spain: Lively market for most varieties
The pear harvest started a few weeks ago in northeastern Spain, with good demand and interest in the European markets, partly due to the decline in the Italian production. According to a trader, there is a very lively market for the Ercolini, Blanquilla, Williams and Conference varieties, and this is also reflected in the prices, since everyone wants to secure a supply of these products. In the case of Conference pears, normal volumes and good quality productions are expected in Belgium and the Netherlands, which makes Spanish traders fear the possibility of a strong pressure on the Spanish market if domestic pear prices skyrocket. The quality of the Spanish Conference is good, but it lacks russeting, which could be a handicap to compete with the Belgian and Dutch pears. The European pear production will be the second lowest on record, although Spain (+25%, 296,000 t) has partly recovered its production capacity. Commercially, a smooth marketing year is expected, with some varieties suffering clear deficits due to the climatic issues that have strongly affected some production areas.
South Africa: Pear export crop up to 20% lower than last year
Western Cape pear orchards are on the cusp of blooming and, judging by flower buds, flowering looks to be excellent – but a lot could still happen as the fruit sets and develops.
“What we’re seeing on the trees is really looking very promising,” says the technical advisor for one of South Africa’s main pome fruit producers. “The dams are full, the climate’s been favourable – but by now we know not to count our chickens before they’ve hatched.”
August marked the start of European tariffs on South African pears, therefore now Forelles go towards the Middle and Far East. South African exporters are sending to China, Hong Kong, India, the Middle East, Malaysia and a bit to Singapore. Russia takes mostly Packhams but volumes have strongly dipped over the past few years.
“The foreign currency prices are higher than last year, and the currency is weaker. So the net result to the producer is actually very positive. The negative is that we’ve had less fruit this year. If we could have had last year’s crop with this year’s prices, it would been a real success story.”
Hail in the Langkloof took away pears from a crop that, already without hail damage, would have been 10 to 15% smaller than 2022, he reckons. Last year had a hot summer following a previous winter that wasn’t as cold as the current one.
The current pear export crop was estimated at almost a fifth lower than the previous crop.
China: Hebei pear orchards not hit by major floods
China's pear season hast just started, with new pears entering the market from July onward. Hebei province in the Northeast of the country, is a major pear-producing region. At present, Hebei has an area of more than 100,000 hectares, with an annual output of 3.6 million tons of fresh pears. Last year, the province exported a record 150,00 tons of fresh pears.
According to a pear grower and exporter from Hebei, the major floods that hit Beijing and Hebei in the first weeks of August have not affected the region's pear orchards.
Large temperature fluctuations, of over 15 degrees, that happened in April and May did not have a major effect either on the fruit quality. Most of the pears are bagged in the middle of spring until harvest. However, it did have a slight effect on pollination, with crop output expected to be 10% lower.
According to another pear grower, this year's pear quality is very good. The hot weather in recent weeks did not have a negative effect on the crop. He expects output to be similar to the 2022 season.
North America: Slight decrease in pear crop over last year
Pear harvest has begun in Washington starting with Bartlett and Starkrimson, with other varieties ahead. “The crop was on time as we typically start mid-August,” says one shipper.
This start follows a good growing season in the state with an ideal spring that moved into a cooler June and July--optimal weather for fruit growth, sizing and color. “The warm May impacted pears a bit. They dropped following bloom which affected volumes of certain varieties. Overall we’re seeing that the pear crop will be down over last year.”
One variety that experienced that was green and red Anjou pears. Meanwhile Bosc, which has an on-off year growing pattern, is having an on year so it will see greater supplies.
Meanwhile promotions are likely ahead to keep pear movement going. Promotions will also be key given California is likely harvesting later this season due to its unusual spring weather. “It will probably cause a slight overlap between summer pear promotions and whether retailers want to pull those from California or Washington,” says the shipper.
Argentina: Country prioritizes nearby destinations in the export of pears
Exports of pears from Río Negro and Neuquén have shown a rebound in the first half of 2023, breaking the downward trend registered in recent years for the January-June period.
As confirmed by the latest statistics for June 2023 published by an industry body the almost 231,000 tons shipped represent an increase of 14.8% compared to the 201,090 tons that Argentina exported in the first half of 2022; however, they are still below the 242,084 tons exported by the country in the same period of 2021.
The year-on-year increase in shipments to the main traditional destinations for Argentine pears stands out: Brazil, to which the country has shipped almost 79,000 tons, has received 41% more fruit, and Russia has increased its purchases by 34% exceeding 50,600 tons.
Although a deeper analysis of exports by country allows us to see a clear trend in 2023 in exports of Argentine pears; and it is that while shipments to Europe have fallen year-on-year, there are notable increases in shipments to Latin American countries, so it could be concluded that in 2023 Argentina is prioritizing the closest destinations within its own continent.
Thus, there are increases in shipments to Peru (42%), Mexico (47%), Paraguay (315%), Bolivia (18%), Ecuador (430%) or Colombia (27%); while the European markets registered considerable decreases, such as Italy (-25%), the Netherlands (-56%), France (-47%), Germany (-33%), the United Kingdom (-19%), Latvia (-84 %) or Spain (-49%).
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