Over the years, Prognosfruit has become the leading annual meeting point for the European apple and pear sector. Each year the conference gathers around 300 leaders from the apple and pear sector in a different European country in early August. Prognosfruit is an opportunity not to be missed to debate the latest sector developments and be informed on the annual apple and pear crop forecast.
For the first time since the initiation of Prognosfruit in 1976, the organizers of the 2020 edition have had to take the difficult decision to regretfully cancel this year’s conference. Prognosfruit was scheduled to take place later this year in Belgrade (Serbia) from 5-7 August 2020.
The global COVID-19 pandemic has prevented Prognosfruit from being organized this year under normal conditions. So far, there is no indication when the current travel restrictions within the European Union and on the external borders of the European Union will be lifted. Furthermore, at the time of the conference some quarantine rules might still be in place as well as other restrictions on transport and social distancing.
It has been agreed with Serbia Does Apples, the local organizer of conference planned conference in 2020 in Belgrade, that Prognosfruit 2021 will take place in Serbia.
In the meantime and regarding the 2020 forecast, WAPA will release the apple and pear forecast as usual early August. The modalities of disclosing the 2020 forecast will be announced in July.
In November, the largest Belgian trade mission ever travelled to China, in part to promote the country’s exports of Conference pear. Despite China being the world’s largest producer of pears, Chinese consumers love Belgian Conference pears, which were first introduced to the country in 2010, with export volumes rising steadily.
This growth has come off the back of a series of promotional initiatives aimed at familiarising the Chinese with Flemish pears, including tastings, as well as a specially designed red packaging for the Chinese market. These boxes are smaller, so the freshness of the product is not compromised.
In 2010, around 19 tons of Belgian pears were exported to China. By 2018, the volume had reached around 3,324 tons (€4.4 million). This makes China Belgium’s second market after Norway. In 2018, VLAM organised tastings in 18 different Chinese cities. The majority of these took place in Shenzhen and Beijing. There were also campaigns in other major cities such as Guangzhou and Shanghai. For the tasting sessions, VLAM collaborated with 8 different supermarket chains such as Carrefour, Walmart, Sam’s Club and AEON. In total VLAM planned 2,588 tasting days in 2018, with which 517,146 consumers were reached. In the first half of 2019, VLAM held 2,423 tastings.
(Photo credit: Pxhere)
New Zealand is set to export a record volume of apples and pears in 2019, with shipments totalling nearly 400,000 tons. The rise is largely thanks to improved conditions in the country’s free trade agreement (FTA) with China, which allow faster border release of perishable products. Besides speeding up the process, it will also significantly cut compliance costs for New Zealand’s exports. Speaking on Radio NZ, Alan Pollard, chief executive of NZ Apples & Pears, said, “Over half of our exports have gone to Asia, with China becoming our second largest market.” In 2013, New Zealand’s apple and pear industry set a target of reaching NZ$1bn exports by 2022.
“The government’s success in achieving very good trade and market access outcomes gives industry confidence to continue to invest in new plantings and new technologies to ensure that we can take advantage of these opportunities as they open up,” said Pollard.
Demand in China for imported pears continues to grow. In 2019/20, imports are estimated to be up almost 40% to 15,000 tons, according to USDA data. The rise in demand is largely attributed to the marketing campaigns organised by main suppliers Belgium and the Netherlands. The additional tariffs imposed on US pear imports mean that shipments have fallen from North America. As for the Southern Hemisphere, China recently granted access to Chilean pears, which join Argentinian pears on Chinese supermarket shelves.
China’s pear exports are also expected to increase by almost 40% to 500,000 tons in 2019/20, due to the larger crop. The main markets are in Southeast Asia, while exports to North America are also expected to rise.
The EU pear crop for 2019/20 is expected to be down 13% to 2.46 million tons, according to FAS EU data. Production is estimated to be down in all production areas except for the Iberian Peninsula and the Czec
h Republic. The EU’s largest pear producer is Italy (511,000 tons), where the crop was 30% smaller than in 2018/19. Production area in Emilia Romagna (Italy’s main growing region) is shrinking by 2-3% each year. Italy was also hit by heavy rains in the early growing season. As a result, Italian fruit size is expected to be smaller than in recent years. The main variety grown in Italy is Abate Fetel.
In contrast, pear production area continued to grow in the Netherlands (10,101 hectares) and Belgium (10,354 hectares), where Conference is the main variety produced. However, low temperatures in the Netherlands during flowering mean that overall volumes will be down there by 6%. Belgium’s crop is set to be 10% smaller, mainly due to hailstorms and some sunburn. The Spanish pear crop is expected to be up nearly almost 5% to 307,000 tons (mainly Conference) due to favourable growing conditions throughout the season. Size and taste are expected to be good.
The meeting point for Italy’s pear sector, FuturPera, will be held once again in Ferrara in the Emilia-Romagna region. Despite the economic crisis, the municipality of Ferrara has recognised the importance of the event by sponsoring it, in collaboration with private entities like Bper Banca, Generali Italia and VH Italia Assicurazioni. Stefano Calderoni, president of Futurpera, said, “This is a difficult year from an economic point of view and not only for the agricultural sector. The institutions that govern us or are involved in promoting business development are facing a resource crisis, because the transfer of money by from the state to local authorities has decreased over the years or has become more complex.” There is also a strong presence of foreign companies exhibiting their innovative proposals at the fair.
CSO Italy has announced a 34% drop in Italy’s 2019/20 pear crop. The total harvest is expect to reach 511,000 tons. The fall is spread across all of the main varieties, especially for Conference, Abate and Kaiser, less so for William B.C., Santa Maria and Max Red Bartlett.
The contraction in production has been attributed to several factors. Besides problems in the flowering and setting phase, bugs have attacked some crops. Moreover, there has been a decrease in production areas, with the key Emilia Romagna region’s surface falling 3%. This decline in surface areas shows no sign of abating for traditional varieties.
Europe’s 2018 Conference pear crop is 9% above the three-year average (2015-2017), thanks to growth in all of the three main producing countries: the Netherlands (+13%), Belgium (+7%) and France (+7%). The French crop has smaller calibres than previous years due to the hot weather, which precipitated collection. Domestic production is under threat from the large Belgian and Dutch crops, putting pressure on prices, despite locals preferring French products.
The Comice variety took over from Conference in February. Then, in March, the conservation chambers were opened and the fruit ripened rapidly, leading to less stable quality. The campaign drew to a close at the start of April.
Argentina’s fresh apple and pear crops are estimated at 590,000 tons and 600,000 tons, respectively, as the decline in planted area continues. Fruit quality and calibre were negatively affected by poor growing conditions (excess rain, hail and high humidity). According to USDA data, exports are expected to be down to 90,000 tons for apples and 290,000 tons for pears, as a result primarily of the large Northern Hemisphere crops and the lower competitiveness of Argentine exports. These drops in production follow on from a 2017/18 season in which output rose from 520,000 to 560,000 tons for apples and from 550,000 to 580,000 tons for pears.
Apple and pear production is concentrated in Patagonia’s Upper Valley of the provinces of Rio Negro (85%) and Neuquen (12%), with the other 3% located in the Valle de Uco in Mendoza. The main apple varieties are Red Delicious (64%), Granny Smith (14%), Gala (13%), and Cripps Pink/Pink Lady (6%), while the main pear varieties grown are Packham’s Triumph (41%), D’Anjou (24%), Williams (16%), Abate Fetel (6% percent), and Bosc (5% percent) (Source: Top Info Marketing S.A.). Around 11% of the 42,000 hectares of apples and pears are certified as organic.
Origine Group and VariCom signed the licence agreement for the innovative pear FRED®
FRED® is the commercial name of pear variety “CH 201” bred after 18 years of work by the researchers of the Swiss Research Centre Agroscope. “FRED® has an attractive blush skin and handy size. The texture is firm, but crispy and juicy. Aromatic and sweet, backed-up by a light acidity in combination with an exceptional shelf-life, gives the consumer a fantastic eating experience – states Michael Weber, Managing Director of VariCom – Moreover, the tree shows a low susceptibility to Erwinia and has high yield. The cultivation of FRED® has been tested in several areas, and fruits will shortly be available for real-scale commercial tests.”
“Origine Group decided to invest in this pear – says the Managing Director Alessandro Zampagna – for its organoleptic and aesthetic characteristics, but also for its shelf-life and high yields. Therefore, FRED® is an interesting pear for all involved in the production and commercial chain, and we think that the pear sector needs new varieties with these characteristics. With VariCom and the French nursery Dalival, that will supply the plants, there has been an immediate understanding, and we trust this cooperation will bring very good results.”
“We are convinced that Origine Group, thanks to its production base and its strategy, represents the right partner in Italy, where it will be the exclusive producer of variety ‘CH 201’ and marketer of the brand FRED®. – continues Michael Weber – Italy is the first producing country of pears in Europe, so it will be crucial for the success of FRED®.”
“We hope to show some FRED® pears at Origine Group stand in Futurpera, the specialized exposition that will be held in Ferrara from 28 to 30 November” – concludes Alessandro Zampagna.