Good Fruit Grower

February 15, 2017

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24 FEBRUARY 15, 2017 GOOD FRUIT GROWER T he pear industry created the International Pear Congress, known as Interpera, to pro- vide an opportunity for pro- ducers, marketers, handlers and researchers of pears from across the world to share research and information. Since its founding in 2009, the conference has been held annually in seven different countries: Belgium, Italy (twice), France, Spain, Argentina and Portugal, with the latest presentation in Cape Town, South Africa, in November. I had the honor of representing Pear Bureau Northwest, the nonprofi t market- ing organization for Washington and Oregon pears, at the conference. (Some 95 percent of U.S. pears are grown in the Pacifi c Northwest.) At the conference, Europe, New Zealand and South Africa were well represented with speakers and attendees who shared their thoughts and ideas on the state of the pear industry worldwide. Generally, pear acreage is declining internationally outside of China, even though production per acre is increasing with newer, high-density plantings. However, pear consumption in Europe, similar to the U.S., remains fl at even as the world population is increasing. That raises a few concerns: Industry representatives from across the globe expressed concern about the volume of processed pears coming out of China at competitive prices, which is put- ting pressure on growers in several countries, including the U.S. The risk in having a limited number of export markets is high. The Netherlands and Belgium were very depen- dent on exports to Russia and have struggled to recover from Russia banning those imports, a step made in retal- iation for European Union-imposed sanctions on Russia for its own actions in Ukraine. A stable economy is crucial in growers' home coun- tries, because it infl uences their ability to do business. In addition, it's clear that some growing areas in Europe are very competitive with each other, sometimes to their own detriment. By contrast, sales and marketing agencies in the United States are very well coordinated. South Africa In terms of pear production, South Africa produces comparable volumes to Washington, largely in three key variet- ies: Packhams, which are often unevenly shaped, with green-yellow skin when ripe and a soft, textured fl esh; Forelles, an oblong or bell-shaped fruit with a distinc- tive pink blush and a sweet, juicy fl avor; and Williams pears (called Bartlett in the U.S.), with yellow skin when ripe. However, while growers in the U.S. tend to grow pears in cooler areas and apples in warmer regions, the reverse is true in South Africa. Apples there require cooler nights they fi nd at higher elevations to color the fruit. Growers there also don't face the issues of fi re blight and pear psylla. Their climate is closer to the central California valley with mild winters and hot summers. South Africa also is one of the few countries in the world that has trees 10 years or younger representing roughly 20 percent of their volume. By contrast, I'd be surprised if 5 percent of the trees in the Pacifi c Northwest are 10 years or younger. For that reason and others, growers in South Africa see opportunities. Currently, almost everything South African growers produce is for export markets, much of it to Europe, but also to Russia and the Far East — markets that are mainly based on smaller to medium-sized fruit. Because the country is isolated geographically, pear growers work across commodities to support research on issues such as product cooling, food safety and sanitation and exports. Growers in South Africa also are further ahead than most countries in terms of examining new varieties from all over the world, sometimes even before patents have been released. And they always have an eye on export markets and are exploring export opportunities in Mexico, Canada and the United States. Pear industry unites GOOD POINT Industry shares information at Interpera Congress in South Africa, with plans for 10th annual meeting to be held in U.S. for fi rst time. by Bob Gix PHOTOS COURTESY OF BOB GIX A typical pear planting in the Ceres growing area, located in the Western Cape Province of South Africa, is shown during an Interpera Congress tour in November. Trees are typically planted 5 feet apart, with 13 feet between rows, on mounded soil with vigorous rootstock. The training targets a fruit wall. Growers in South Africa produce high fruit volumes of Packhams Triumph, at times exceeding 70 bins an acre. The fruit size may be small at that volume, but sugars are very high and it was a good eating pear even when a bit fi rm. The same pear grown in the Pacifi c Northwest is not as smooth and has a different shape. Bob Gix

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