- Associated Press - Tuesday, August 9, 2016

MEDFORD, Ore. (AP) - Northwest tree-fruit growers haven’t been Vladimir Putin fans since the Russian president halted pear and apple imports in August 2014.

Being an industrious lot, pear growers didn’t waste time developing Plan B. With cessation of a profitable two-decade relationship, producers have shifted their sights from Russia, the country with the largest land mass on Earth, to India, the second-most populated.

For some Northwest growers, India has been the answer to a worrisome dilemma.

“India has been the saving grace for the Washington Red Delicious apple,” said Scott Martinez of Rivermaid Trading Co. “Who knows how many they shipped to them last year? And pears have followed. They’re real good for red pears. There are emerging middle classes in the these countries that maybe 20 years ago didn’t have the discretionary income to buy a lot of this stuff.”

Mike Naumes, president of Naumes Inc., whose firm cultivates 1,600 acres of orchards in the Rogue Valley, has added India to the global portfolio.

“India turned out to be a market that’s taking 300,000 to 400,000 boxes a year from the Northwest and has really good potential to expand even more,” Naumes said.

Pear Bureau Northwest marketers began making overtures five years ago and stepped up efforts after Putin retaliated against Western economic sanctions on Russia after its seizure of Crimea and aggression in Ukraine. In late June, Putin extended the embargo through 2017.

Naumes Inc. began shipping pears to India in 2015 and is boxing its first 2016 crop for shipment to the subcontinent this week.

“We’re always concerned about the long transit ride and the maturing of the pears on the ride,” Naumes said. “They’re about 30 days on the water.”

The fruit is chilled to a core temperature of 30 degrees to slow ripening before packing, he said.

Once the pears hit the dock, they’re taken to supermarkets within a couple of days.

While the India market accounts for less than 1 percent of Naumes’ production, the niche will expand and could grow to 2 percent or 3 percent, he said. “Especially if we start shipping some of our Anjou pears over there.”

China, India, Ecuador and Central American countries are stepping up their demand for Anjou and red Anjou pears, Martinez said. “But we’re making headway with Bosc, Comice and other varieties, too.”

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Information from: Mail Tribune, https://www.mailtribune.com/


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