Pear conference set to press production investment to exploit market potential

Growers to be urged to increase pear planting as evidence points to customer demand creating a greater UK market share.

The potential for UK pear growers will be the main theme of the Profitable Pear Production conference later this month.

English Apples & Pears chief executive Adrian Barlow, who has organised the event and will chair proceedings, told Grower: "With apples, there has been huge progress in UK production and sales in recent years. The same is not true of pears, but there is massive potential to increase market share from the current 15-17 per cent."

But for that figure to rise, growers must be confident that investment in new planting will be justified by future returns, he explained. "Right now the market is dominated by highly-efficient Dutch and Belgian growers who effectively set the price."

He added: "There is demand for English pears - we sell all we grow and many multiples would like more. The question is, can growers be persuaded to plant them?"

Barlow and Dr Theresa Huxley of Sainsbury's will outline the UK pear industry and market before growers discuss their experiences of planting new orchards or achieving high yields from existing trees.

The promising early results from East Malling Research's (EMR) high-intensity concept pear orchard will also be discussed.

EMR's Dr Mark Else will look at using water more efficiently in the season ahead and Professor Jerry Cross will review control of pear sucker (Psylla pyricola). The conference will run at EMR in Kent on 27 February.

Choosing a system

Consultant David Knight, author of the software program Making Apples Pay, will demonstrate at the conference how careful cost analysis can reveal why some growing systems make a profit while others do not.

He told Grower: "Intensive systems are an exciting step up, but only worthwhile if they then pay for you to harvest all that fruit."

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