Frutas y HortalizasSep. 9, 2011
Primavera helada retrasa cosecha y reduce el tamaño de la fruta
Juan Crisostomo quickly stripped Bartlett pears from one last branch before moving on to another tree at Cuillier Farms one recent afternoon. He was among roughly 15 pickers late last week rapidly working to get pears headed for the Del Monte cannery off John Cuillier’s trees.
Thanks to one of the coldest springs on record, the pear crop is at least 10 days behind, said Del Monte field superintendent Steve Carlson. “We’ve had a cold growing season,” he said while walking through Cuillier’s orchard. “So everything is a little bit smaller.” Last year at this time, about 100,000 cartons of pears had been shipped from the Yakima Valley, said Jay Grandy, manager of the Washington-Oregon Canning Pear Association in Yakima. But this year so far, shipments stand at only 11,000 cartons.
“So that just gives you an idea of how slow things are,” Grandy said. Growers of Bartletts destined for processing will receive at least $253 a ton this year in the second year of a two-year agreement with Northwest Processors. The Bartlett pear crop size in the Valley is expected be about 126,000 tons, slightly better than last year’s 124,000 tons, Grandy said. Most of the canning pears already have been picked in the Lower Valley and much of the Upper Valley, he said. But fresh pear prices are still up in the air. Varieties that account for the fresh market such as Bosc and Seckel usually come off later. Fresh pears account for roughly two-thirds of Cuillier’s 45 acres of pears. “We’ve got a good crop,” he said. “With fresh pears, you just don’t know what you’re gonna get.” Ron Wilcox, a field man in the Lower Yakima Valley for Oregon-based Truitt Brothers, says smaller fruit usually yields slightly lower prices, but growers will still make their cash price.
“We’re not seeing that many larger pears in the bonus area, I’ll tell you that,” he said. “Last year we saw quite of few of them.” But growers can’t help but be excited about lower tariffs, dropped from 20 percent to 10 percent, on U.S. pear exports to Mexico, the largest pear export market from 2006 through 2009, according to The Packer, an industry publication. Getting those later pear varieties off the tree could be challenging, Carlson said. With apples already starting to come off and hop harvest revving up, the labor force could get stretched, he said. “That’s when we’re going to get stretched pretty thin,” he said. “That will tell how the labor force is going.” Cuillier said he’s got enough hands right now, but fears he may not when hop and apple harvests are in full swing later this month. “We won’t know what we got until we get into it a little more — kind of wait and see,” he said.