Harvest is still a couple of months away, but pear growers here — and throughout the Pacific Northwest — are giving the 2013 crop an early thumbs up.
Pear-industry representatives from Medford to Wenatchee, Wash., met last week in Portland and estimated the coming crop will be 4 percent larger than the five-year average and 2 percent larger than last year's production. That would make the forthcoming crop the third largest on record, according to the Northwest Pear Bureau.
The projected regional crop of fresh pears weighs out at 436,410 tons, or 19.8 million standard 44-pound boxes.
"I think it's a really manageable crop and a clean crop, with no hail or insect damage at this point in all our districts," said Mike Naumes, president of Naumes Inc., which grows 1,000 acres of pears in California, 1,600 in the Rogue Valley, and 100 in Washington.
"Our crop will be slightly larger than last year — about 3 or 4 percent bigger — but it's very manageable," he said.
"So far this has been a good growing season with warm temperatures, just a few nights of frost, with no frost damage. So far, we haven't had other weather events like hail, and all the varieties seem to have had a good set."
The timing of the harvest is projected to fall within historical norms, with picking expected to begin here in early August with the Starkrimson variety, followed by Bartletts. Winter varieties such as Anjou, Bosc, Comice, Concorde, Forelle and Seckel will be picked from early September through mid-October.
Naumes Inc., which just wrapped up its cherry packing in Sacramento Valley's Yuba County, plans to begin picking there in the first week of July and move on to Bartletts around July 11.
The Bosc crop, Naumes' largest single variety, accounting for 40 percent of its production, has been a pleasant surprise.
"We're set for another excellent crop after coming off a good crop," Naumes said. "It depends on the variety, but often when you have a heavy crop, the next year it comes back lighter. We were concerned because we didn't see a high amount of bloom on the trees, but from whatever was out there, we had a good set."
Pear Bureau Northwest reported Green Anjou pears, the most abundantly grown variety in the region, are projected to increase 3 percent over 2012, putting it 2 percent ahead of its five-year average. Bartlett pears are projected to decrease by 5 percent from last season's large crop, but could still yield 9 percent more than the five-year average. Growers are expecting the Bosc pear crop to increase by 7 percent over last year's yield.
Green Anjou pears are anticipated to account for 53 percent of Northwest production, with Bartlett making up 22 percent and Bosc 15 percent.
Doug Lowry, the chief executive of Associated Fruit, which farms nearly 700 acres in the Rogue Valley, said he's pleased by what he sees going into thinning time.
"The crop is a little earlier than typical, and we're waiting for the June drop to finish," Lowry said. "It's not a bumper crop, but we are really encouraged by what we see out in the field, and it looks a like a good-sized crop. It looks really clean, and we're pleased with what we see out there. We're where we want to be without too much thinning, and we've exceeded initial projections."
Associated Fruit, which has added about 200 acres to its production this year, grows about 50 percent Bosc and 50 percent Comice.
"Nothing real eventual is happening, other than protecting the crop against scab," Lowry said. "Typically you start with a pretty crop and it goes downhill from there. As long as it doesn't get too hot and we don't see hail, I'm really encouraged. Hopefully, the market will hold up, too."