Canadian lentils sub-par?

Sean Pratt reports from the Global Pulse Convention in Cesme, Turkey, about what is driving pulse markets.

CESME, Turkey — Some international buyers of Canadian lentils are not happy with the quality they’re getting.

“As millers, we are very disappointed in the quality the Canadian system allows suppliers to supply as lentils,” said Saifuddin Abidali, chair of Mufaddal, an Egyptian pulse crop miller.

“We don’t know what we’re buying,” Abidali told delegates attending the 2016 Global Pulse Convention in Turkey.

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“It’s a very serious problem, mainly with the bulk shippers.”

He said Canada’s grading system is designed to camouflage the true quality of lentil shipments.

“They have adjusted the grades to suit the shippers and not the buyers,” Abidali said in an interview following the lentil market outlook presentation.

He believes the specifications for a No. 2 quality lentil are far too broad and need to be tightened because often what he receives is what he considers to be No. 3 quality product.

There can be a $100 per tonne difference between what he paid for and what he receives.

“That’s a lot of money,” he said.

Abidali said he does not have the same issue with product from Australia, which is why he is shifting his business to that exporting region.

“They’re more honest about grading,” he said.

He insisted that he is not the only buyer who has a problem with Canadian product.

“You ask any miller in this room and they’ll have the same problem with Canada.”

Other buyers indeed echoed Abidali’s concerns.

“I completely agree with you,” said Sudhakar Tomar, managing director of Hakan Agro, a company that exports US$1.5 billion of agricultural commodities annually.

He said the quality needs to match the demand, but that is not the case with Canadian lentils.

Anis Majeed, chair of the Karachi Wholesale Grocers Association, said the quality of Canadian lentil shipments tends to change based on what kind of crop was harvested. For example, the definition of what constitutes a top quality lentil becomes more lenient if growing conditions are poor.

“If the No. 1 crop is not grown, it should be No. 2 or No. 3,” he said.

“Sometimes we have to handle a very difficult situation because the quality is not as per the standard which has been sold.”

Gord Bacon, chief executive officer of Pulse Canada, said he thinks the issue is that there is a wide divide between the bottom and the top of the No. 2 grade.

However, he said Canada’s grading system can also work in favour of buyers. A buyer could pay for No. 2 and receive No. 1 quality lentils in years when weather conditions are favourable for producing good quality lentils.

He encourages buyers to provide detailed language in contracts about their quality specifications and how disputes will be resolved.

Bacon said the Canadian industry pays close attention to customer criticisms. A number of years ago, the industry lowered the moisture content level on lentils based on feedback from buyers.

Pulse Canada will delve deeper into the complaint that surfaced at the convention and take it back for discussion with the board of directors.

Bacon said buyers are happier with Australian lentils because they are harvested during the heat of summer and subsequently have low moisture levels.

“They’re going into summer when they harvest and we’re headed into winter,” he said.

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