Manitoba farmers expected to give peas a chance

There are still question marks going into the growing season, but drier conditions across much of the province could sway some interest toward the crop

Winnipeg (CNS Canada) — Total Canadian pea acres are likely to be down in 2018 because export challenges have cut into prices.

However, Manitoba could be an outlier, with increased area to the pulse crop a strong possibility.

“People are interested in growing peas, but there’s caution there,” said Francois Labelle, executive director of Manitoba Pulse and Soybean Growers, pointing to past issues with disease. The organization recently held a producer meeting in Brandon discussing the potential for growing peas in Manitoba.

Peas “are a good pulse crop for producers to grow, but there are some challenges along the way,” said Manitoba Agriculture pulse specialist Dennis Lange, echoing the disease issues with the crop that will play into how expansion happens.

Manitoba saw its largest pea acreage in 15 years in 2016, with 163,200 acres seeded to the crop. However, that year was extremely wet, which hurt quality and yields, and acres subsequently dropped back in line with the previous five-year average with only 65,000 acres planted in 2017.

The 2017 pea crop benefitted from drier weather, and yields were very good in some areas, said Lange. While there are still plenty of question marks going into the 2018 growing season, conditions are on the drier-side to begin with across much of the province, which could sway some interest toward peas.

The prospect of increased local demand is also drawing more attention to peas in Manitoba.

Roquette, a French-based processing company, is in the midst of building a plant in Portage La Prairie that will have the capacity to process 100,000 tonnes of peas a year. The facility is expected to be operational by the fall of 2019. Manitoba only grew 80,300 tonnes of peas in 2017-18, according to Statistics Canada data. The company will likely need to bring in peas from Saskatchewan, but will pull as much as possible from closer sources.

“There’s always interest (in growing a crop) when there’s a local market,” said Labelle.

He related a story of a Manitoba producer who had liked growing peas in the past, but stopped due to the excessive freight costs of moving it to buyers in Saskatchewan.

“Our association is hopeful that people will be trying some peas this year, just to get them back in the rotation and build understanding on producing (the crop),” said Labelle.

“Having more pea acres will help not only Roquette, but other companies in Manitoba that are also dealing with peas,” said Lange. He didn’t expect a large increase overnight, but rather sustainable growth because peas will still face challenges on wet years in Manitoba.

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