U.S. pea acres drop while lentils rise

Canadian pulse crop analysts are wondering whether U.S. pea and lentil planting intentions are a harbinger of what will happen north of the border.

Farmers in the United States told the U.S. Department of Agriculture they intend to plant 893,000 acres of peas, an 11 percent drop from last year and 611,000 acres of lentils, a 16 percent increase.

Most of those changes are occurring in Montana and North Dakota, two states that share a border with Canada’s prairie provinces.

“Those acreage shifts that we saw in the United States could be a signal of what we’ll see in Canada for peas and lentils,” said Brian Clancey, editor of Stat Publishing.

However, the magnitude of change will be more muted in Canada, partly because far more acres are going in the ground north of the border.

He is forecasting 4.1 million tonnes of peas, a three percent decline and 4.48 million acres of lentils, a six percent increase. Statistics Canada’s seeding intentions report is due to be released at the end of April.

Chuck Penner, analyst with LeftField Commodity Research, said the big drop in U.S. pea acres makes sense because pea prices in that market have not risen to the same degree as they have in Canada.

U.S. growers face duties into the Chinese market, which has hurt their export program.

“In addition, a larger portion of U.S. peas are green varieties and those prices haven’t seen the same strength,” he said in a recent blog he wrote for Alberta Pulse Growers.

He doesn’t think Canadian acres will follow suit, but they could end up flat or just slightly higher than last year.

Clancey thinks Canadian pea acres will be down because of the loss of the Indian market and lingering uncertainty about Chinese demand.

“As long as you’ve got it you smile, but who knows what’s going to happen,” he said.

There is also a possibility that Russia and Ukraine could ink phytosanitary agreements with China, opening up that market for Black Sea peas.

“If they can gain access to that market the way that Canadian growers have, then you’ve got a whole new competitive environment,” he said.

Canadian pea growers also have agronomic concerns surrounding root rot diseases.

Penner said it is not surprising to see a forecast increase in U.S. lentil plantings. Farmers there tend to grow medium green lentils, and prices for greens have performed better than reds.

He expects there will be less of a response north of the border because Canadian farmers grow more reds than greens and there are bigger disease concerns.

“Still, a small increase is certainly possible,” he said in the Alberta Pulse Growers article.

Clancey said U.S. farmers have seen decent movement of their lentils because of growing domestic demand from the fractionation and pet food sectors.

They have also become more competitive with Canadian green lentils in Latin American export markets.

Despite the potential for increased plantings, he is forecasting a drop in U.S. production to 308,000 tonnes from 336,000 tonnes last year based on a return to average yields.

That means supplies are going to be tight because the U.S. is forecast to carry out a mere 7,000 tonnes from the 2020-21 crop.

Clancey thinks Canadian growers may cut back on green lentil acres because available supplies of the crop are starting to become high in relation to demand for the commodity.

Contact sean.pratt@producer.com

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