Peas find home in China

India also a big buyer | Growing demand as snack food

China will buy a lot of peas in 2013-14, which is good because Canada is expected to produce a huge crop, says a pulse industry analyst.

Stat Publishing editor Brian Clancey recently returned from a pulse conference in China, where a major vermicelli noodle manufacturer forecasted record pea imports.

It means sales would have to eclipse the 730,484 tonnes imported in 2011, 95 percent of which were Canadian.

China imported 364,255 tonnes of peas in the first half of 2013. The general manager of Cofco-Shandong Vermicelli and Beans Import/Export Co. expects the pace to pick up in the second half of this calendar year.

He also anticipates a new record in 2014 on soaring demand for peas as an ingredient in vermicelli noodles.

Vermicelli production in China has steadily risen to an estimated 630,000 tonnes in 2013, up from 408,000 tonnes in 2010.

Clancey said there is also growing demand for peas in making fried snacks such as wasabi peas and for fractionating the crop and using the protein, starch and fibre to fortify other types of food.

“That may be the area with the best long-term growth potential for peas,” he said.

Strong Chinese demand could be an important factor in pea markets this year. Statistics Canada sees 3.3 million tonnes of pea production, a big crop, but shy of the 2008-09 record of 3.56 million tonnes.

However, if yields end up where Saskatchewan Agriculture is forecasting, then Canada will harvest a record 3.63 million tonnes of the crop, although Clancey said supply won’t be a record because of low carry-in from 2012-13.

India had a large desi chickpea crop last year, and it looks like another big crop could be on the way. The Indian government is targeting a record 19 million tonnes of pulse production in 2013-14 because of encouraging monsoon rains.

Indian importers have recently cut back on purchases, and in some cases reneged on contracts due to extreme volatility with the rupee.

Clancey isn’t concerned about slumping demand from India, despite the strong Indian crop prospects and the weakening rupee.

“India is going to import at least three million tonnes of pulses, no matter what they say about their crop. They just are,” he said.

He believes India will still be the top buyer of Canadian peas, al-though the price they are willing to pay is a bigger concern.

“A growing market in China is good because it gives us that extra outlet, and that makes it possible for us to resist the downward price pressure from Indian importers.”

Peas always tend to find a home in years of over-production.

“It’s just amazing how much demand appears …Peas are just that versatile a crop.”

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