Low wheat prices put shine on peas, lentils

Acres hampered by seed shortage | Analysts’ planting predictions for pulses more than double Agriculture Canada’s

Analysts think Agriculture Canada is way off the mark with its 2014 forecast for pulse acres.

In its latest supply and disposition report issued March 20, the department predicts a nine percent increase in pea plantings and a three percent hike in lentils.

It is a far cry from what people in the pulse industry expect.

“Pulse acres are going to be up this year because of the slow movement of wheat,” said Denis Gregoire, president of Gregoire Seed Farms Ltd.

He is forecasting a 30 percent in-crease in lentils, which would result in a record 3.5 million acres of the crop.

“When wheat prices are depressed, you’re going to get more pulse crops,” he said.

Gregoire grows green peas on his seed farm in North Battleford, Sask. Demand for the crop has been through the roof.

“If I could have had my whole farm in green peas last year I’d be sitting pretty nice,” he said.

Gregoire was sold out of green pea seed by the middle of December.

“I probably could have filled three pages with names of people who called after we were sold out,” he said.

“There is a shortage of green pea seed again for planting this year.”

He is forecasting a 14 to 15 percent increase in the crop. It would have been more if not for the lack of seed. Yellow peas will also be up because of the high cost of fertilizer, but he didn’t have a specific estimate for that crop.

Marlene Boersch, partner in Mercantile Consulting Venture, agreed pulses will be a popular choice this year, especially lentils.

“It’s entirely possible that we could increase acres by 25 percent,” she said.

“Red lentils have performed very, very well. We’re seeing another ramp up in prices recently.”

Exporters shipped a record 877,000 tonnes of lentils in the first half of 2013-14, and Stat Publishing expects a record 1.79 million tonnes will be shipped by the end of the marketing year, barring further transportation problems.

Boersch said lentils have the luxury of being able to move through the East Coast, avoiding the west coast transportation logjam.

“We could see very good acreage. I’m not super concerned about it at the same time because the carryout should be within reason,” she said.

Stat Publishing said market participants are predicting two million acres of red lentils and more than three million acres of all classes. It is predicting a significant decline in ending stocks in 2013-14 because of strong movement of the crop.

Weber Commodities Ltd. estimated a 19 percent increase in lentil plantings and a 20 percent jump in peas in the March issue of Saskatchewan Pulse Growers’ market newsletter.

Boersch said peas are a tougher call because the crop was flying out the door early in the 2013-14 campaign but has since cooled off.

“The strongest months are way behind us. They were in September (and) October,” she said.

“Since then we have been below the 200,000 (tonne per month) mark.”

One positive sign is that sales to India were strong in January, which is the last month for which statistics are available.

Boersch said acreage should be up, but the returns per acre won’t be that attractive if yellow pea prices fall below $6 per bushel.

She was pessimistic about the chickpea outlook. Exports for the first six months of the year were 37 percent below the previous year’s pace.

“They’ve been such a dog,” said Boersch.

“With the transportation problems, nobody has been paying attention to them.”

There has been a good run on chickpea prices in India and Australia.

“We’re really seeing very little of that here, so it’s not an exciting crop,” she said. “I think we’ll continue to drop in acres, no question.”

Agriculture Canada is forecasting a 13 percent decline in chickpeas.

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