Ukraine struggles to replace lost pea sales

India’s import restrictions have hit the European country’s producers hard because they have few other export options

Ukrainian pea farmers took it on the chin when India decided to implement quantitative restrictions on imports of the commodity.

Production and exports of the crop tumbled in the wake of that policy decision.

Exports have plummeted to an estimated 360,000 tonnes in 2020-21 from a high of 872,000 tonnes in 2017-18, according to APK-Inform.

India was Ukraine’s top pea market and the country has struggled to find a replacement for that demand.

China has been the saviour for Canadian growers but Ukraine is not allowed to ship peas to that market due to phytosanitary restrictions.

Rav Kapoor, chief executive officer of ETG Commodities, said Ukrainian farmers had just planted a large crop when India came out with its pea import tariffs and quota.

“They were caught off-guard,” he said.

“They were left with heavy supplies.”

It has taken Ukraine a while to work its way through those supplies.

Russia’s pea production has not been affected to the same extent because it grows peas for domestic feed in addition to the export market.

Russia is also more competitive than Ukraine into key markets like Pakistan, Turkey and Bangladesh.

That is why Russian pea production has remained stable and, in fact, increased by 16 percent to 2.74 million tonnes in 2020-21, according to APK-Inform.

The country is expected to export 950,000 tonnes of that crop, a 69 percent increase over the previous year.

Kapoor said Ukraine has made some inroads into European feed markets.

The Netherlands was Ukraine’s top customer in the July-through-December period of 2020, buying 51,000 tonnes of the crop followed by Spain at 43,000 tonnes and Italy at 22,000 tonnes, according to APK-Inform.

Turkey, Malaysia, Poland, Sri Lanka, Yemen, Sudan and Bangladesh round out the top-10 buyers.

UkrAgroConsult is forecasting that Ukrainian pea exports have bottomed out and may climb a little in 2021-22 to 415,000 tonnes.

“This increase may be explained by the opening of the Chinese market for Ukrainian peas,” analyst Sergey Feofilov said during the pea panel of the Global Pulse Confederation’s Ukraine Market Outlook Conference.

Kapoor said phytosanitary discussions between the two countries appear to be going well.

“We are hearing in a year or maybe less than a year (China) will be able to come to a conclusion with Ukraine on how to get this thing lined up,” he said.

According to APK-Inform, China will import a record 3.3 million tonnes of peas in 2020-21, up from 2.53 million tonnes the previous year and 2.45 million tonnes the year before that.

Kapoor expects continued strong demand from China for Canadian yellow peas in 2021-22, as long as they remain price competitive with corn and soymeal.

“We expect the yellow pea demand to be similar compared to the last two years,” he said.

He thinks Canadian farmers will plant a similar amount of peas as last year, which was 4.25 million acres.

He is also hearing unconfirmed reports out of Russia that growers in that country will also be planting about the same amount they did last year.

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