Pear growers in crisis

Belgian pear-growers are encountering difficult times. Last year’s drought has proved detrimental to the quality of some of the pears grown. This along with other factors including Russia’s boycott of fruit from EU countries and an increase in competition from Eastern European growers has meant that around one third of the pears grown in Belgium can’t be sold. The remainder are often sold at a loss.     

Pear growers in Flanders have not had it easy for many years and last year’s drought was the straw that broke the camel’s back. The drought meant that many pears were unable to grow sufficiently before they were picked and taken to cold storage.    

Now the pears from last year’s harvest are being taken out of cold storage around a third of them are not fit for sale.

The pears that can’t be sold as fruit can in the best case scenario be used for pear syrup or to make pear juice or other bye-products. However, a large number of waste pears are being used for animal feed and are being taken to bio gas power stations where heat and electricity is produced. If they are lucky they receive a small amount for their fruit.

However, once transport costs have been deducted it is often the case that pear growers end up paying to get rid of the fruit that they have invested a great deal of time and effort growing.     

Running at a loss

The pears that are sold as fruit for further sale in greengrocers and supermarkets attract very low prices. Luc Borgugnons of the farming federation Boerenbond told VRT News that farmers are currently getting 30 cent/kilo for their best quality pears, while it cost them around 50 cents to produce the fruit.    

Even in a good year pear growers only make between 10 and 20 cent/kilo. This means that they have little or no buffer to accommodate for selling at a loss.  

Belgian pear growers saw the door to a major export market close when Russia banned the import of agricultural products from the EU as a reaction to sanctions the EU had imposed due to Russia’s annexation of Crimea.    

Greater competition from Eastern European fruit growers has also served to push down prices.