Russia could overtake Canada as world’s top pea producer

This could be the year Russia overtakes Canada to become the world’s largest pea producer.

APK Inform reports that Russia produced 3.3 million tonnes of peas in 2017. Planting of spring crops is barely underway so it is hard to know the intentions of Russian farmers, but if they follow their Ukrainian counterparts it could be a similar-sized pea crop in 2018.

Ukraine produced 1.1 million tonnes of peas last year, a 47 percent increase over the previous season, according to APK.

Ukrainian farmers are almost done seeding the 2018 crop. They had planted 981,000 acres as of April 27 and are on pace to seed 1.1 million acres, a slight increase over last year.

Canadian farmers by contrast are cutting back on peas. Agriculture Canada forecasts 3.2 million tonnes of production in 2018-19, down from 4.1 million tonnes the previous year and many analysts think that is an optimistic projection.

If the scenarios outlined above pan out, Russia will overtake Canada as the world’s top pea producer for the first time.

Brian Voth, president of IntelliFARM Inc., thinks Canadian pea plantings will be even lower than the 3.9 million acres Statistics Canada is forecasting, but higher than the 3.5 million acres the trade was expecting because farmers need the crop in their rotations.

He believes carryout is going to be high due to a disappointing export program.

Weber Commodities reports that Canadian pea exports through the first eight months of 2017-18 were 663,234 tonnes behind the three-year average and 909,985 tonnes behind last year’s pace.

“We have to find other markets through necessity at this point,” said Voth.

“That’s not just something that happens overnight.”

Carl Potts, executive director of Saskatchewan Pulse Growers, said there is no doubt the Black Sea region is providing more competition for Canadian peas into markets like India and China.

“That’s why, as an industry, we’re quite focused on trying to build more ingredient demand and more demand in North America,” he said.

“Perhaps we can maintain a step ahead of some of the other emerging suppliers.”

The budding pea fractionation business could add 600,000 tonnes of new annual value-added demand within a couple years.

“We’re very pleased with how quickly some of this has come along,” said Potts.

“That’s not small, incremental, niche demand.”

But while things are looking up in the medium-term, he is concerned about the short-term outlook, especially if Russia and Ukraine do not curtail production this year.

“Especially when we’re having market access challenges with our largest market, India, that new demand can’t come fast enough,” said Potts.

Canadian spring wheat has fared well despite record global wheat carryout stocks. But peas can’t rely on quality factors to the same extent as spring wheat.

Traditional markets like India either split the yellow peas or grind them into flour, so quality isn’t a big concern.

Where it can play a role is in North America’s emerging fractionation and food ingredient market.

Companies will be looking for specific compositions of starch and protein and other attributes such as traceability and environmental sustainability and that’s where Canadian peas can shine.

Potts said the Canadian pea industry also needs to emulate what the wheat sector has done by building up the technical knowledge of the crop, which will be another sales attribute.

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