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Early Oregon pear harvest falls below expectations

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News,Business,Agriculture,Oregon

MEDFORD, Ore. (AP) — Midway through an early harvest, one of the world's largest pear growers says its Rogue Valley crop isn't meeting expectations.

Medford-based Naumes Inc. said the harvest is two weeks ahead of schedule and it looks like the yield will be 15 percent below normal. The company says the culprit was a two-day freeze in late March.

Bartlett production, coming off a short year in 2013, was above estimates by about 12 percent, company President Mike Naumes told the Mail Tribune (http://is.gd/Q1Kdho ). But Comice yields were 20 percent under estimates, and the winter pears — Bosc, and red and green D'Anjou — will fall short of prior estimates.

"We just don't have the fruit in the trees," he said.

Local pear sales bring in $30 million to $40 million each year, and the industry's ripple effect adds up to about 15 percent of Jackson County's gross domestic product, according to Oregon State University estimates.

Though the harvest isn't spectacular, the company faced bigger problems in Washington state, where a July wildfire east of the Cascade Range destroyed an employee's home and 7 miles of deer fence surrounding 12,000 trees.

"Sometimes it totally burned up a tree, and in other cases it just scorched it," Naumes said.

The company lost electricity to the site and brought in generators to run two six-horsepower pumps and a series of booster pumps to move water 1,400 feet from the Columbia River into a 9-million gallon storage tank.

"We burned through $100,000 of diesel just to run the generators for a week," Naumes said, adding that insurance did not cover the loss of the deer fence.

Back in southern Oregon, Naumes said the harvest itself has gone smoothly despite a lack of pickers.

"That's an ongoing problem," he said. "The good news is that we're right where we need to be in order to get the rest of the crop off in the right time frame with the maturity level spread out."

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

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