Upcoming European pear harvest will be one of the smallest in the last ten years, according to forecast released at Interpera

Interpera 2023 panel

The forthcoming European pear harvest will be one of the smallest in the last ten years, with a forecast of around 1.9m tonnes.

That was according to estimates presented at Interpera, the global congress for the sector’s producers and international stakeholders, which this year took place in Lleida, Spain.

On the basis of flowering and fruit set, Spain’s production is forecast to grow by 53 per cent with 190,600 tonnes of pears, Portugal up by 7 per cent to 130,000 tonnes and France down by 26 per cent to 109,000 tonnes.

Belgium’s volumes will grow 6 per cent to 366,000 tonnes, while the Netherlands and Italy have not yet calculated their exact harvest forecasts, but are making downward predictions.

Production by nation

In analysing each country’s prospects, Interpera revealed that Italy has had poor fruit set, significant petal fall and was suffering from the unpredictable impact of flooding in Romagna which could threaten the survival of some plantations.

In the Netherlands, the harvest is expected to be the same or slightly lower than in 2022/23 due to low rainfall at key times, while Belgium will see an increase thanks to good flowering, good fruit set and good size.

Variations between the various French basins are expected, it was noted, with production potential “significantly reduced” with a gradient from south-east to north – rather poorer in the south and improving upwards, and therefore a gradient from summer varieties (Guyot) to autumn varieties.

Portuguese grower representatives are optimistic about the good weather conditions and good fruit set, and are expecting larger sizes.

Production is set to increase in Spain enabling the country to regain its pear production potential after a poor season last year. However, doubts remain over the possible effects of the drought. Generally speaking, good sizes are expected, but in the areas affected by the drought the final size of the fruit is still uncertain.

Trade estimates for the coming season are “fairly optimistic”, with one exception: Italy.

Despite a drop in production due to the recent climatic disaster, the Italian representative present announced that the country would make the most of its final production, whatever it may be.

Consumption and climate

A common theme from the speakers panel at Interpera was that it is essential to increase consumption, to communicate to consumers that fruit is not expensive.

European households react positively in terms of consumption and amount spent when presented with a good product, it was noted.

The Interpera presentations also focused on climate change and crop adaptation.

Professor Antonio Ruiz de Elvira from the University of Alcalá de Henares stressed that “we missed the opportunity to mitigate climate change, now we have the opportunity to adapt” by implementing strategies such as drip irrigation, planting drought-resistant varieties, installing capillary run-off systems and, finally, planting trees.

The conference then highlighted studies carried out in various countries, such as innovations in irrigation and shading of plantations, and analysis of the distribution of the CO2 footprint in pear cultivation and handling.

Finally, the last speaker proposed genetic improvement as an option for combatting climate change, with varieties that are tasty, productive and suitable for a wide range of crops.

Interpera 2024 will remain in southern Europe and be hosted by Portugal.