Prairie lentil market down as crop prospects look good

Winnipeg (CNS Canada) – The western Canadian lentil crop is looking good which has buyers in no rush to lock in contracts.

“The crop is germinating well and so (buyers are) not really anxious or worried about having product available in this coming crop year,” said Marlene Boersch, of Mercantile Consulting Venture.

The crop report from the Saskatchewan Ministry of Agriculture, released June 14, rated the provincial lentil crop at 74 per cent good to excellent condition. While Alberta Agriculture and Forestry’s crop report, released June 12, pegged the Alberta lentil crop at 66 per cent good to excellent condition.

“I saw some of the lentils last week in Alberta and in southern Saskatchewan and it looked good. And so the buyers will be aware of that,” Boersch said.

Canadian lentil acreage is also weighing on the market. The Statistics Canada principal field crop areas report for March, estimated Canadian producers planned to plant 4.1 million acres of lentils this year, which is 4.1 per cent less than year. Analysts had predicted the lentil acreage number would drop more due to India’s current import tariffs on pulse crops.

Currently large green lentil prices in Western Canada are sitting around the 25 to 27 cents per pound range, while small green lentils are between 24 to 25 cents per pound. Red lentils are around 17 cents per pound. Prices are down almost half of where they were last year at this time.

According to Boersch however, green lentil bids are at a traditional price compared to where they have been sitting at for the last few years.

“You have to remember that the last two years we saw unusually high prices and that was because demand was pretty solid. A lot of that came from India obviously,” she said.

Red lentil prices however are sitting low. This is due to Canada having a large carryover stock. Indian is Canada’s biggest market for red lentils and due to the import tariffs sales have fallen.

“Unless (the Indian government) changes the tariffs and I don’t really see that happening because they’ll probably have a general election in the fall…India will stay very, very tepid,” Boersch said.

India isn’t the only market where Canadian lentils are facing problems. Turkey is Canada’s second biggest market for lentils; however Turkey has been importing more lentils from Russia and Kazakhstan. As of April, Canada has exported 95,500 tonnes of lentils to Turkey, compared to 190,000 tonnes last year, according to Statistics Canada.

“Whenever you have several years of very high prices you also bring in new competition and that’s what’s happening there. And that will also stay the same for the coming year,” Boersch said.

There are however various other countries which import Canadian lentils, including United Arab Emirates, Mexico, Algeria, Sri Lanka, Colombia, the United States and various Mediterranean countries.

“There’s a bigger range of destinations actually than we have on the pea side,” Boersch said.

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