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Valley orchards are bountiful as winter pear harvest begins

Hood River Valley orchardists are about halfway through the winter pear harvest, and so far things are looking good.

According to Craig Mallon of the Hood River Grower-Shipper Association, orchardists are on track to pick about 4.7 million boxes of fruit -- compared to about 4.3 million last year.

"This year's harvest is generally large sized pears with a `clean' finish," Mallon said. He said the fruit's size generally relates to warm temperatures during spring. And, he said, dry spring weather causes the fruit to have a cleaner finish -- meaning fewer blemishes and less of the so-called russeting that downgrades the fruit's quality and, therefore, its value.

Mallon said the lower valley, which is further along with harvest, has had a "pretty full crop," while the upper valley is a bit lighter.

Despite fear of water shortages orchardists have so far been unaffected, according to Mallon. "There haven't been any shut-downs," he said.

Although repercussions from the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the East Coast have so far not affected the local orchard industry, Mallon doesn't rule it out.

"We export winter pears all over the world," Mallon said, adding that a "fair amount" of local pears are sold in the Middle East. If something happened to affect those exports, it would obviously be felt by local orchardists.

"But at this point it's going on as normal," Mallon said. "It's a good crop. Hopefully (the orchardists) can make some money on it."

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