Sask. lentil yields predicted to be down

After a year of market woes for lentils, it looks as though the yields in Saskatchewan won’t be the best either.

“I think overall we would be expecting lentil yields lower than average this year, but it’s hard at this point to put a figure or a number on that,” said Carl Potts, executive director of Saskatchewan Pulse Growers.

The lentil harvest is more than half done in Saskatchewan. The weekly crop report from the Saskatchewan Ministry of Agriculture estimated the harvest to be at 55 percent complete as of Aug. 20.

While there aren’t firm numbers yet on what the yield will be, Potts said it will vary across the province because of the dry weather. Parts of the southwestern and west-central regions of Saskatchewan, which are the major lentil growing regions, experienced little rain, and Potts expects the yields to be lower throughout there.

“It’s hard this early to provide general statements about areas because the rain was very patchy this year,” he said.

This is the second year Saskatchewan has experienced dry conditions. Last year there were adequate moisture reserves heading into the growing season, but this year the soil didn’t have a deep moisture reserve and with a dry growing season, yields are expected to be down.

Overall, Saskatchewan will have a lower lentil production volume this year. Farmers planted only 3.346 million acres of lentils, according to Statistics Canada’s June production numbers, which compares to last year’s 3.920 million acres. The lower acreage was the result of market woes caused by India restricting market access.

During the winter, India placed an import tariff on lentils and then later placed more import restrictions to help increase the purchase price for local farmers. Lentil prices dropped in Canada after the restrictions were placed.

“So that’s certainly having more of an effect on growers both having to carry crop over into the next year as well as facing obviously lower market prices than they would have been expecting a year ago,” Potts said.

In response, producers did reduce acreage seeded this year. However, prices will still be down, Potts said, because international market opportunities are still lacking.

“When India needs to get back into the importing game, then that should provide some recovery for prices, but until such time as we have a recovery in pulse prices within India, I think it seems as though the import duties will stay in place,” he said.

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