Chickpeas look OK, prices soft

Canada’s chickpea crop likely beat earlier expectations, but poor prices may limit farmer sales at harvest time.

“We planted the crop in drought conditions” and were preparing for the worst, said Colin Young of Midwest Grain in Moose Jaw, Sask., pointing to the lack of subsoil moisture in the key chickpea growing regions of southern Saskatchewan. However, much needed rain early in the growing season changed the outlook.

“The rains came in the bottom of the ninth. The yields aren’t spectacular, but they’re solidly average,” said Young.

He said some of the most advanced chickpea crops were desiccated and ready to harvest, but recent moisture across Saskatchewan will cause delays.

“The majority of chickpeas are still a month away from harvest,” said Young.

While that may be later than the past two years, a September harvest is normal for the crop.

After growing 311,000 tonnes of chickpeas in 2018-19, Agriculture Canada is currently forecasting a 260,000 tonne crop in 2019-20 because seeded area was down slightly.

Overall, the moisture that helped save yields in early July also resulted in disease problems for about a third of the crop, according to Young. Those fields recovered somewhat, but will see reductions in yield and quality.

An additional third of the acres were decent, but not spectacular, while the remaining third was quite good. More recent rains in the last week of August will lead to decent seed caliber, although it may also cause some new quality issues.

While many farmers will have a larger chickpea crop to market than they may have anticipated during the dry spring, world markets are also well supplied, which is keeping a lid on prices.

Turkey is just wrapping up a good harvest and have been aggressive sellers into the global market, said Young.

“Until these aggressive countries have sold their stocks, our choice is to compete at very low levels or hold and wait for our turn,” said Young.

He expected the market would remain under pressure until Christmas.

Canada No. 2 or better kabuli chickpeas are currently priced in the 21 to 22 cents per pound area, which is well below the 30 cents farmers would rather see, said Young.

Chickpeas can store well, which means actual farmer deliveries will depend on the economics for each individual farm, with ebbs and flows in the market expected over the next few months.

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