David Shapley
Volumes of some premium price pears could be cut by half this summer, according to industry insiders.
Martin Dunnet, business unit director of Capespan, said varieties from South Africa and New Zealand will be affected, including Comice and some of the increasingly popular early blushed varieties, such as Rosemarie and Flamingo.
He said: "The shortage has been caused by a combination of poor weather during blossom time and the effect of a light cropping year, which is a regular occurrence in all pear production."
Dunnet expects that William Bon Chretian will be available: it began to arrive late February and should last into April.
However, later picked Packham's Triumph, also regarded as a mainstay, is expected to be reduced from 250,000 to 200,000 cartons. But it is Comice where the gaps will show, Dunnet said: "Initial estimates indicate that our figures will be down by 50%, so we could finish up with only 30,000 cartons."
Mid-season blushed pears have been affected, although he reported that later varieties such as Forelle, which are available in August, look more promising.
The New Zealand market also has a similar story to tell, Dunnet revealed. While crops are far smaller than in South Africa, its growers still occupy a niche market for Comice and Taylor's Gold, which have been reduced for the same reasons.
Alternatives are more difficult to locate, according to importers. The Argentinian crop is coming to a close, and while Chile has fruit, much of it will be committed to its other international customers.
In Europe there are only limited volumes of stored European Conference available, while the UK is expected to have supplies for another month.