Fewer pigeon peas bode well for lentil sales

Demand for Canadian green lentils may rise because they are used as a substitute when pigeon pea prices are high. | File photo

India's pigeon pea crop is going to be smaller than the government is estimating, says an analyst from that region of the world.

That may bode well for Canadian green lentil demand because they are used as a substitute when pigeon pea prices are high.

Nitin Kalantri, chief executive officer of Kalantri food products, is forecasting 3.7 million tonnes of Indian pigeon pea production, well below the official government estimate of 4.28 million tonnes.

Kalantri, who was the pigeon pea expert at a recent webinar hosted by the India Pulses and Grains Association, said the short crop is being reflected in high pigeon pea prices in India.

The government estimates farmers planted 11.58 million acres of the crop as of Aug. 16, which would be nearly three percent above the five-year average.

But Kalantri said that's not what his company has been hearing from growers on the ground.

He suspects plantings will be five to seven percent below normal due to attractive prices for competing crops like soybeans, sugarcane and cotton.

Monsoon rains have been erratic but they have generally been well distributed through most key growing regions with the exception of Rajasthan and Gujarat where a lot of the moong pulses are grown.

"Crop prospects are very good," said Kalantri.

However, more rainfall will be required just before flowering to ensure good pigeon pea production. He said it is too early to get a bead on yields.

The National Agricultural Co-operative Marketing Federation of India (NAFED) has an estimated 260,000 to 275,000 tonnes of stocks, which he said is very low.

The private trade has another 650,000 tonnes of supplies and 75,000 to 100,000 tonnes of imports.

"We have an ample amount of stocks," he said.

Kalantri expects pigeon pea prices to rise another 10 percent before new crop starts to show up around Dec. 1.

He thinks the country will need 900,000 to one million tonnes of the crop between now and then but imports will be restricted because international prices for the crop are too high.

Kalantri anticipates India will import 200,000 to 225,000 tonnes of pigeon peas from Myanmar and Africa from now through Nov. 30.

Nirav Desai, managing partner of GGN Research, said good monsoon rainfall in early June supported pulse crop sowing but the taps turned off from mid-June to mid-July.

Rainfall in August was 27 percent below normal but there was good distribution in central and southern India where the kharif pulses are grown.

D.S. Pai, head of climate research and services at the India Meteorological Department, said weather

models indicate September monsoon rainfall will be above normal. Last year it was 150 percent of normal.

That would be good for the pigeon pea and moong crops but could harm the urad crops.

Desai said chickpea prices have been low for so long that it has spurred consumption at a time when supplies are restricted.

"All things are poised for a tighter balance sheet," he said.

"I do see government might be taking decisions on trying to get more cargo from other parts of the world and we might see another change in duty structure."

Desai believes the pulse market has entered a bullish cycle in India and there's not much the government will be able to do to keep prices in check.

Krishna Murthy, managing director of Four P International, said the urad stocks are extremely low in India and Myanmar.

"We're going to see a huge spike in prices," he said.

Contact sean.pratt@producer.com

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