Green lentil demand expected to remain strong

Most of Canada’s green lentil crop is thought to be No. 2 or better quality this year with barely any supply of lower quality product. | File photo

Analysts say global imports could reach 1.18 million tonnes this year, up from the five-year average of 1.09 million tonnes

Analysts and industry officials anticipate strong green lentil demand in 2020-21.

Juan Sebastian Pabon Chaves, vice-president of grains and cereals at Le Perla, a Colombian grain company, said Colombia imported 75,000 tonnes of green lentils in the first nine months of 2020.

“That’s on the high side because normally in Colombia we import between 65,000 and 86,000 tonnes in a whole year,” he told delegates attending Pulses 2.0, a virtual conference hosted by the Global Pulse Confederation.

“So having 75,000 tonnes in September with three more months of the year, it’s on the high side.”

The increased demand was due to the government handing out baskets of food to an estimated five million families during COVID-19.

The baskets each contained two pounds of lentils, so that’s 5,000 tonnes of additional demand.

Chaves expects continued strong demand in 2021 because the economic situation is not good in Colombia and people are switching from meat to lentils to conserve money.

Colombia is the second biggest customer for Canadian and American green lentils behind India. Other important markets for Canada are Peru, Algeria and Mexico.

Brian Clancey, editor of the Stat Publishing newsletter, expects 1.18 million tonnes of global green lentil imports in 2020-21, up from the five-year average of 1.09 million tonnes.

Total world supply of 1.73 million tonnes is in line with the five-year average, so the increased demand should have a positive influence on prices.

“We could be seeing an uptrend,” he said.

“I wouldn’t say it’s going to be dramatic but it may be a steady uptrend.”

Elyce Simpson Fraser, vice-president of sales and marketing with Simpson Seeds, estimated Canada produced 600,000 tonnes of large green lentils, which is at the high-end of the traditional range of 500,000 to 600,000 tonnes.

Growers harvested another 175,000 tonnes of small greens, which is smaller than the average of 200,000 tonnes.

Most of the crop is No. 2 or better quality with barely any supply of lower quality product.

She agreed with Clancey that prices will likely stay firm, adding that there is too much of a disparity between large and small green prices.

Jeff Van Pevenage, chief executive officer of Columbia Grain International, estimates United States farmers harvested 292,000 tonnes of green lentils, up from 170,000 tonnes last year. The vast majority are medium green lentils but there is a growing amount of small greens as well.

He forecasts 200,000 tonnes of exports, well above the previous year’s levels.

“We expect green lentils in the United States to get relatively tight this year,” he said.

Michael Kemperdick, managing director of Schluter & Maack GMBH, a German grain company, said the COVID-19 spike in European Union green lentil demand was a one-time event.

He expects a return to normal EU buying patterns in 2020-21 because consumers may have bought more lentils during the COVID lockdown but they didn’t consume more.

Kemperdick said there will be reduced export competition from the Black Sea region as growers backed away from planting lentils this year due to poor prices.

“We will see considerably less exports of green lentils from the Black (Sea) region this season,” he said.

Kemperdick expects Black Sea exporters to focus on nearby markets like Poland, Czechoslovakia and Ukraine. They will not be servicing Western Europe this year.

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