Pea production could topple previous record

Lentils are suffering, but Canada’s pea crop is in great shape, according to analysts.

Saskatchewan Agriculture is forecasting an average yield of 40 bushels per acre, which would be 23 percent above the 10-year average.

An even better crop is expected one province over in Alberta, where the government is predicting an average yield of 44 bu. per acre.

Statistics Canada was set to release its first crop production estimate Aug. 23, which was past The Western Producer’s production deadline.

If the provincial government estimates prove accurate, that would result in a record 4.8 million tonnes of peas and 21 percent higher than the previous record, according to Stat Publishing.

Greg Kostal, an analyst with Kostal Ag Consulting, has no problem accepting that number.

“The trade has certainly talked about a 4.5 to five million (tonne) all pea number as a possibility,” he said.

“The anecdotal news flowing from the country from the pea harvest is supportive of a good outcome, for sure.”

Chuck Penner, an analyst with LeftField Commodity Research, is also comfortable with that number. He is predicting 4.4 million tonnes, but some of his contacts in the grain industry say it will be closer to 4.6 million tonnes.

The pending large crop has already pushed yellow pea prices down to the $6.50 to $7.50 per bu. range. At one point last winter, new crop prices touched $10 per bu.

Both analysts think there could be further downward pressure in 2016-17.

The Ukrainian Agribusiness Club is forecasting 752,000 tonnes of pea production in that country, almost double last year’s harvest of 390,000 tonnes. Russia also has a big crop on the way.

Early estimates suggest Australia is poised to harvest 1.65 million tonnes of chickpeas, which compete with Canadian yellow peas in the Indian market. The previous record was slightly more than one million tonnes.

“Their chickpea crop will be ginormous,” said Penner.

The only good news for Canadian growers is that France is expected to harvest 459,000 tonnes of peas, down 31 percent from the previous year because of heavy rains.

It all adds up to large global supplies.

“On yellow peas, we could be really comfortable and could even border on heavy,” said Penner.

He expects prices to drop a little lower because of harvest pressure, recover and then drop again later in the year, especially if India has a good rabi crop.

India’s kharif (summer) pulse plantings are up 35 percent over last year because of improved monsoon rains. Good soil moisture could also lead to more pea and chickpea acres when the rabi crop goes in the ground this fall.

Kostal agreed with Penner’s price outlook for yellow peas.

“I would expect further weakness,” he said.

The analysts are more bullish about green peas. North American green pea acres were down more than the trade was anticipating.

“We could be a little bit snug actually when we look at greens,” said Penner.

Kostal believes green peas will maintain and even expand their price premium over yellow peas.

“Greens never had the oomph like yellows did on the way up, so on the way down they’re going to be laggards as well,” he said.

Neither analyst has heard of any quality problems with the 2016 pea crop. By contrast, there are many reports of quality issues with the lentil crop.

Penner believes that is because peas are more widely grown and not as concentrated as lentils in the areas that experienced flooding.

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