The global pear market seems to be on a stable note, with increasing demand and good prices, especially for smaller sizes. The Belgian pear market is doing well, with a surge of 30% in prices in the last month, and a high demand for smaller sizes. Meanwhile, Germany is experiencing an increase in overseas supplies, primarily from South Africa. Switzerland is seeing positive development in the organic fruit market, and club concepts are on the rise. In Italy, a lack of large sizes of pears has pushed prices up, while Spain is experiencing lower harvests but good prices and sales for pears due to a shortage, especially for larger sizes. Severe weather in South Africa has led to a fall in pear volumes, with some major growing areas hit by hail events. The lower yields are expected to have a significant impact on exports, however, the introduction of blush pears like Forelle in China is expected to create new opportunities. Meanwhile, in North America, pear growers are looking to promote their fruit and attract younger consumers. In Argentina, an increase in pear production is expected, although the challenges facing exporters include high inflation, government price and currency controls, and difficulties importing equipment and inputs.

Netherlands: Conference pear prices stabilised after rebound in January
In contrast to the struggling apple market, pear sales in the Netherlands are progressing satisfactorily this year. The Doyenné du Comice pear season has come to an end, limiting Dutch supply to Conference and Gieser Wildeman pears. The Doyenné du Comice pear season went well, according to a Dutch fruit trader. “Price-wise, the season went satisfactorily. Italy also took a lot of Comice pears this year, you see that the pear harvest in this country is getting smaller every year due to the problems with the brown marbled shield bug. Sales of Conference pears are also stable. Prices have been pretty good all season. We saw a rebound in January, now prices have stabilised,” the trader said. “Demand is broad, both from Europe and overseas. However, you do see a lot of tinted pears across the board this year.”

Belgium: Smooth second half for pear season
The pear market seems to be going smoothly during the second half of the season. “There is actually nothing really holding back the pears at the moment. Demand can be called good. You can also feel that in prices, as they have gone up by about 30 per cent in the last month. It’s stagnating a bit at the moment,” says a Belgian exporter. “However, it is notable that especially the smaller sizes of Belgian pears are doing well for now. The thicker pears are a bit more difficult. You also notice this in the prices, because the smaller ones have increased, but the thicker sizes have rather dropped or remained stable in the last month. This is then also due to the fact that smaller sizes are more scarce abroad, so volumes are bought in Belgium.”

A grower indicates that the pear market is nothing to write home about, but “fortunately” the situation is not as bad as for apples. “Last year we had a good year, but this year we are just making costs back. Certainly, pears picked on time are holding up well towards the second part of the season. Pears picked later should not be kept too long, because you do see the necessary dropouts occurring now.”

Germany: Overseas supplies are increasing
The relevance of the Italian, Dutch, Belgian and domestic German pears is decreasing. The demand is slightly rising, while mainly smaller calibres are entering the market.

Meanwhile, the supplies from South Africa are increasing, dominated by the varieties Bon Chretien, Rosemarie, Celina and Cheeky. Overall, the quality of the overseas pears is very satisfying, which is why they are gaining popularity on the market. In general, prices are somewhat lower than last year. Especially in the Lake Constance area, the Xenia variety has been gaining ground over the last few years, both in conventional and organic fruits. Since 1 September 2022, the Deutsche Obst-Sorten Konsortium GmbH (DOSK) has the exclusive brand license for Germany.

Switzerland: Organic and club pears on the rise
The Swiss pear market shows a positive development, particularly for organic fruits. Over 191 tonnes of organic pears were sold by Swiss retailers in December 2022, a total of 39% more than in December of the previous year. The highest December sales of organic pears since 2017 was also a result of the very good domestic pear harvest last year. Also in Swiss retail, club concepts are on the rise. The red-skinned pear Fred from Varicom has been rapidly gaining importance since the successful brand launch in 2018 and is now cultivated in all the classic pear-growing regions of Western Europe. Last year, Swiss pear-growers harvested around 200 tons in total.

Italy: Lack of large sizes pushes prices up
The Italian pear market was decent for large size pears. This was confirmed by a major player from the north of Italy. “This year, there was a lack of large sizes, which is why prices are high, especially for the valuable and main varieties such as Abate and William. On the other hand, there are difficulties, in terms of consumption and prices, for the Santa Maria and Kaiser varieties.”

The player explains that Abate pears or other varieties of size 65-, i.e. small, are present in large quantities and therefore sold at low prices. ” The pears were sold as a first-price product, but in competition on the foreign market with other pears. There is also a growing presence of foreign products in Italy: Conference pears from Belgium and the Netherlands and this is due to their low prices. “And competition for Italian pears is strong, from Belgium and the Netherlands, even abroad,” the player claims.

According to data compiled by Istat, over the entire territory of the province of Ferrara (Emilia Romagna), from 2013 to 2022 the number of hectares has fallen from around 22,000 to just over 15,000, and even in 2023 uprooting will not stop, especially for the Abate variety.

Purchase frequency is constant for pears in Italy, and they have been purchased by 52% of Italian households in the last twelve months (vs. 57% two years ago), according to GfK Consumer Panel data. Purchases of pears are subject to seasonality: we find maximum levels of over 21 to almost 23% between September and November; minimum levels between 11 and 14% in June, July and August. Organic represents an opportunity to boost purchases.

Spain: Lower harvest but good prices and sales for Spanish pears
The Spanish pear market is experiencing good prices and good sales for pears due to the shortage in general, especially for large sizes. The harvest has been around 30-35% lower in Lleida and Aragon and Navarra due to the frosts in April. Some areas have lost up to 60% of their production. Later in summer, the heat waves in June and July made an impact in the fruit sizes, which are mainly small. On the other hand, a considerably high number of pears have had malformations due to the adverse climate conditions. The effects of bad weather also brought higher fruit losses in general.

Conference pears are doing well due to the big drop in production in Belgium and the Netherlands as well. Williams and Bartlett are also selling well with good prices. Nevertheless, the demand for Blanquilla has continued its downward trend, confirming its decline according to an exporter, who explains that Israel was a big importer some years ago until Turkey introduced its Santamaria pears, which keep gaining ground. Greece also consumed Spanish Blanquillas in the past, but they started planting themselves and now they are self-sufficient.

The high production costs is one of the biggest concerns for the sector, which have increased by 30% in one year and they keep going up.

France: a market less impacted than the apple
The pear market is much more “fluid” this year than the apple market, according to a French operator. “The market is less impacted than for apples, which are very difficult. There is no overproduction in Europe and prices are globally similar to those of last year”.

If volumes are lower, the problems that usually occur with the Comice variety are absent this year. It should be noted, however, that sizes have decreased due to increasingly hot and dry weather conditions. The southern hemisphere starts next week with South Africa.

South Africa: Bad weather hits South African pear harvest and export
The weather has been affecting South African pear export estimates: the impact from hail events in several pear growing areas is becoming clearer; initially it was estimated that pear volumes would be down by 6% (totalling just under 20 million 12.5kg cartons) but a major top fruit grower says it could eventually be closer to 8% or 9%.

At this early stage of the export season, shipments to Europe are down by 40%, to the UK it’s 57% below last year’s level YTD and to the Middle East there’s a drop of 14%. However, volume-wise most pears have thus far been sent to the Middle East and to Europe, with Russia in third place.

Exports to Russia and the Far East have increased by 30% and 38% respectively.

This will be the first year in which South Africa sends significant volumes of pears to China, a new market, and there’s excitement about the opportunities for blush pears like Forelle in China. The Forelle harvest has not yet started; it’s anticipated to return to normal volumes of approximately 4 million cartons.

Williams Bon Chretien pears are down by 31% overall, but there’s a drop of 39% in Ceres, one of the hail-affected areas.

There’s significant sunburn damage but, says the technical director of a pomefruit company, producers who have erected drape nets will get value for their investment as it is definitely reducing the incidence of sunburn.

Packham pears, especially, have low packouts, being knobbly and not smooth and in Ceres around 40% are being sent for juicing.

“There is a lot of wind damage on Packhams. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen such poor packouts as we’re seeing on Packhams at the moment,” a packhouse manager remarks. “There’s definitely more wind than other years.”

Lower packout percentages are also a factor of the decrease in exports of Packham pears. It has become too expensive with packaging and shipping costs to export class 2 Packhams to places like Russia, for example. The market for a normal EU1 spec Packham has dwindled, exporters say and with packaging prices drastically increasing every year it has become, an exporter says, “insanely expensive” to pack pears.

Packhouses now select only high quality Packhams, packing for the Far East: Indonesia, Malaysia, India and to an extent still Hong Kong. 

Export prices are under pressure and demand is slow. Domestically the average pear price is R7.44 per kilogram, expected to remain stable this month.

North America: Push for pear promotion
Pears have moved into promotable territory in North America. “We are starting to wrap up on some varieties and organics, but green and red d’Anjou pears remain in good supply with promotion opportunities,” says one Washington-based grower-shipper. “Summer pears like Bartlett are winding down and Bosc is as well.”

While supplies look comparable to last year at this time, the harvest did get a slightly later start this season in the Pacific Northwest. “That is not an impact now at retail since harvest occurred in the fall. We have good volumes of those two winter pear varieties for promotion,” she says, noting its pears come from the Wenatchee and Entiat River Valleys in Washington State.

Pear quality is also strong on d’Anjou pears particularly right now. “It’s an ideal time to plan a bigger pear promotion, especially before seasonal/spring/summer fruits start coming in and taking prominent display space,” she says. “Bulk promotions on pears can help attract consumers to purchase and boost volume, while also enjoying dollar growth to the category and produce department as a whole.”

As for demand, it is good. However, growers-shippers want to keep the fruit in the spotlight. “We need to keep pears on consumer minds and there is room to get people, especially younger demographics, enjoying more pears,” she says. “It’s important we make enjoying pears easy for shoppers and give them a great flavor experience and confidence that the pears they pick up will be ready to eat shortly after purchase.”

Argentina: Notable increase in production of Argentine pears expected
The estimates made by the USDA for the production of pears in Argentina, which this year SENASA presented – up to January 8 for the Williams pear and to January 2 for the Packham’s -, foresee an increase of 25%, due to good climatic conditions, that together with the lower supply from the countries of the northern hemisphere, point to also increase exports this 2023.

In figures, the production would amount to 700,000 tons of pears according to the North American organization, rising notably from the 560,000 tons that the harvest totalled in 2022, when it fell 4% year-on-year. Exports, for their part, would rise to 325,000 tons, evidencing a significant rise from the 277,500 tons recorded by CAFI in 2022, when they fell 9% compared to the previous year.

However, as the USDA report points out, “despite these projected increases in production and exports, Argentine exporters continue to face difficult internal economic conditions that negatively affect their competitiveness. High inflation and government price and currency controls create market distortions that make long-term business planning difficult. The government has also made it increasingly difficult to import inputs needed by the fruit industry.”

“As a result of these challenges, growers have postponed the necessary investments in equipment and replanting with new varieties,” notes the USDA, recalling that “the cost of planting one hectare with new varieties, with protection against hail and dual purpose irrigation ( irrigation and frost prevention) is about $50,000”, while “the production cost of a kilogram of apples or pears was estimated at $0.26/fruit by the Fruit Contracting Table.”

And it is true that “many factors, including the active management of the peso exchange rate, the increase in the costs of inputs for labor and energy, and the vertiginous increase in the price of refrigerated containers due to global shortages of equipment, have presented important challenges for the profitability of producers in recent years”. This year, in addition, the Russia-Ukraine conflict has been added.

“In February 2022, when Russia invaded the Ukraine, the first fruit shipments were en route from Argentina to Russia when shipping lines began cancelling calls to Russian ports. Exporters had to redirect containers to other destinations and, in some cases, unload fruit that was not suitable for the European market at EU ports. In other cases, they had to use the nearest ports, such as Turkey, with additional logistics costs. Local oversupply and longer transit times affected the condition of the fruit, negatively impacting prices, so fruit that would normally have been sold on the fresh market was sold for processing at a higher price. With discount”.

“However, during the second half of 2022, several shipments left the port of Campana for Saint Petersburg, using facilities that normally load citrus. This alternative helped Argentina to export 18,000 tons of pears to the Russian market with shorter transit times”, reveals the USDA report.

However, exports of pears from Río Negro and Neuquén to Russia fell by 37% in 2022. Brazil rose last season as the first destination for the fruit, with the reception of 101,785 tons (+4%).

From Fresh Plaza