Small pigeon pea crop in India expected to affect lentil imports

India has tight supplies of pigeon peas heading into the new crop harvest, which is going to be smaller than initially expected, say industry officials.

Green lentils are used as a substitute for pigeon peas (or tur) in India, so Canadian growers and exporters are keeping a close eye on the crop.

Nitin Kalantry, chief executive officer of Kalantry Food Products, an Indian miller and trader of pigeon peas, said farmers planted 11.92 million acres of pigeon peas in the kharif or summer season.

That is 6.5 percent more than last year and eight percent above the five-year average.

Earlier in the growing season it looked like the country was heading for a bumper crop.

“The rain gods were greatly happy with India,” he said during a webinar hosted by the India Pulses and Grains Association.

But some key pigeon pea growing states like Karnataka received too much rain, which has trimmed yields by about 10 percent.

Kalantry is forecasting four million tonnes of pigeon pea production, up slightly from last year’s 3.83 million tonne crop and the five-year average of 3.77 million tonnes.

But there is negligible carryout from the 2019-20 crop. He estimates millers and importers are holding about 150,000 tonnes.

“We are running very tight on the inventory until the new crop arrives,” said Kalantry.

He expects new crop supplies to start building around Nov. 15, which means there is about a two-month gap to fill.

That is why he is urging the Indian government to start reducing its stockpile of 800,000 tonnes of pigeon peas.

India has set a 400,000 tonne import quota for the crop but has yet to allocate licences for importing the crop.

“Friends, we don’t even have such huge quantity in the world market,” said Kalantry.

He estimates importers will only be able to get their hands on 300,000 to 350,000 tonnes of the crop due to a global shortfall in production.

“Definitely we are not going to fill the import quotas that will be allocated by government,” said Kalantry.

The other alternative is to import green lentils from markets like Canada.

The Indian government recently dropped its import duty on red lentils to 10 percent from 33 percent for Sept. 18 through Oct. 31. It did not drop it for green lentils, said Kalantry.

Nirav Desai, managing partner of GGN Research, said it was a taps-on, taps-off monsoon season this year.

June rainfall was 18 percent higher than average creating an “exceptionally good” start to the kharif campaign.

July rainfall was 10 percent below normal, leading to moisture stress and uneven crop development.

The rains returned with a vengeance in August, coming in at 27 percent above average. That led to flooding and disease outbreaks in some key pulse producing states.

Moong and urad are the other main pulse crops grown during the kharif season.

Desai thinks moong production will be similar to last year’s 1.79 million tonnes and urad production will be below last year’s disappointing 1.3 million tonnes.

He thinks the pigeon pea crop escaped the damage caused by the excess rainfall because it is a later-maturing crop that was not yet in the pod-filling stage.

Anish Goyal, director of GPA Capital Foods, is forecasting 2.5 million tonnes of kharif moong production, up from 1.8 million tonnes last year.

B. Krishnamurthy, managing director of Four-P International Pvt Ltd., said urad production should have been about 2.9 million tonnes but will likely come in under last year’s 1.3 million tonnes due to excess moisture.

There is no substitute for urad like there is for pigeon peas.

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