Growers say they will prioritise the national market this season due to shortfall

Catalonia is braced for a 33 per cent fall in pear production in 2024/25, with the crop expected to weigh in at 80,426 tonnes.

Catalan pears

The figures, presented today by Afrucat, the Fruit Business Association of Catalonia, and by the DACC, Department of Climate Action, Food and Rural Agenda, show a general decline across all varieties except for Blanquilla, which is up 20 per cent on last season.

“This productive decline is largely due to the trees suffering from the drought of spring 2023 and the heat of last summer and this winter. Water stress in pear trees at certain times, and especially in the season before harvest, triggers problems in floral induction the following year. This has resulted in a general decrease in flowering and poor fruit set that has caused an abundant physiological drop,” Afrucat said.

By variety, Conference (the main pear grown in the region) has suffered the most from these adverse weather effects, with an estimated fall of almost 45 per cent, giving a harvest volume of 33,693 tonnes compared to 61,108 tonnes last year.

According to Joan Serentill, president of the Afrucat seed group, “it is a year to reconquer and recover the national market. Pears with good sizes and good quality are expected and the Spanish market is the one that values these large, sweet pears the most. Our export profile will undoubtedly suffer and, as the main destination, Italy in particular will notice this lack of shipments”.

Serentill added that this drop in production is bad news when it comes to stimulating consumption of pears and fruit in general, which has been declining for years. “Pear consumers are getting older and our challenge is to reach younger consumers and make the pear a trending product in their mind. We must get young people to fall in love with our pear,” he said.

Manel Simon, general director of Afrucat, commented: “we believe that this should be a benign campaign for producers. We predict that this decline will not only occur in Catalonia and that there will be a general lack of some pear varieties in the market, which should allow fruit growers to defend the price of their production”.

Carmel Mòdol, Secretary of Food of the Department of Climate Action, Food and Rural Agenda, noted that this season’s shortfall suggests that prices will be adequate for growers. “We have an increasingly organised market with quality production, which, we hope, will move away from the crises of recent years,” she said.

There has been a big shift in European pear supply. Until recently, the main producer was Italy with an annual crop of around 900,000 tonnes, followed by Spain with about 650,000 tonnes. But in recent years these countries have lost more than half of their productive potential, while Belgium and the Netherlands have increased their output. The two countries, which specialise in the Conference variety, have doubled their production since 2000, going from 200,000 tonnes each to 400,000 tonnes.

Portugal, with its Rocha pear, has also managed to leapfrog France, with a productive potential of around 200,000 tonnes, making it Europe’s fifth biggest pear producer.