Early misgivings about the Saskatchewan pea and lentil crops have given way to hope and optimism as the harvest rolls in from central and southern fields.
While yields for most farmers are only decent, they are better than many had feared following a dry summer.
However, quantity is going to be much better than what most farmers remember from the harvest of 2016.
“As for the quality, it’s just beautiful stuff,” said Gerrid Gust, vice-chair of Saskatchewan Pulse Growers, who operates a farm near Davidson, Sask.
“(It’s) easy out of the back of the combine. You’re happy. There’s none of that white mould and the diseases that some of them get,” he said in an interview Aug. 29.
This year, Gust is harvesting 1,000 acres of yellow peas and 4,000 acres of red lentils.
He said none of his crops have staining or wrinkling or any other factors that can cause downgrades.
It’s a common theme through the central part of the grainbelt.
The harvest farther south is more advanced, he said, and the situation there is similar, with mediocre to lower yields, but excellent quality being reported.
Farther north, the harvest is barely underway so it’s more difficult to assess, but Gust expects farmers there might see more quality issues because of the wetter summer they experienced.
“But I think overall, the Canadian crop is going to be excellent.”
On Aug. 30 Statistics Canada estimated the pea crop at 3.79 million tonnes, down from 4.84 million last year.
The lentil crop was forecast at 2.29 million tonnes, down from 3.25 million last year.
Gust said the high quality this year should make most pulses easier to market because every buyer is always looking for that perfect, pristine crop and this year farmers will hopefully have some leverage.
“I’ve got exactly what you want and if you’ve got some money at the levels I want to deal with, then we can talk.
“It’s not such a one-sided conversation.”
He added that key pulse buyers like India almost have to take notice with a crop of this quality and hopefully it will help settle some long-standing phyto-sanitary regulations issues between Canada and India.
Canadian grain shippers currently have temporary permission allowing them to export grain to India without first fumigating crops at port.
Canada doesn’t have the nematode pest India is concerned about and argues it shouldn’t have to fumigate. Plus, the cold weather in Canada makes it impossible to fumigate during the winter shipping season.
India has granted numerous temporary exemptions to Canada but many in the industry say a permanent fix is needed.
“When you’ve got a beautiful, good looking, high-quality crop, they’re much more likely to see things our way,” said Gust.