Wet weather may take toll on lentil acres

Disease threat | Strong demand could see tight supply of red lentils

It appears that wet weather will prevent Saskatchewan farmers from planting as many lentils as they intended.

Stat Publishing has produced an estimate of lentil planting based on regional seeding progress in Saskatchewan that shows farmers have seeded 2.08 million of the 2.38 million acres of lentils they intended to plant.

If no more of the crop goes in the ground, western Canadian growers will produce 1.27 million tonnes of pulses in 2012 based on average yields, down from Agriculture Canada’s forecast of 1.45 million tonnes.

Marlene Boersch, a partner in Mercantile Consulting Venture, thinks total lentil supply could fall to 1.9 million tonnes, down from Agriculture Canada’s estimate of 2.27 million tonnes.

The expectations for strong global demand for the crop could lead to tight supplies, especially for red lentils.

Boersch is forecasting 3.25 million tonnes of world lentil production in 2012-13. It has ranged from 1.8 to 4.2 million tonnes over the last eight years.

Carryout world supply is expected to be four million tonnes, which is at the upper end of the range over that same time frame.

Any potential price rally will likely be centred around what happens to the Canadian crop.

“It really all depends on our production and if you start taking away now from the acres, it’s the first sign that we shouldn’t be quite as relaxed as we really are right now,” said Boersch.

Another red flag for the Canadian crop is World Weather Inc.’s forecast for continued wet and mild weather throughout the summer, exacerbated by the possible development of an El Nino weather event later in the growing season.

Boersch puts more faith in that forecast for the prairie region than any other she has heard.

Pulse crops generally don’t deal well with wet conditions, which tends to lead to excessive disease in crop canopies.

“If we don’t dry up at all, on pulses it creates a lot of quality pressure and potentially also volume pressure,” she said.

Boersch would be worried about lentils and especially chickpeas if it stays wet.

Stat Publishing said there is not much room for downgrading the quality of the shrinking Canadian lentil crop, given the expectation for strong food grade lentil demand out of India.

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