Demand tightens Prairie chickpea supplies

Strong demand and tight global supplies are expected to help strengthen western Canadian chickpea cash bids.

Chickpea production in some of the world’s top-producing nations such as India, Turkey, and Mexico were all less than expected. Yet demand has remained steady from end-users in the Mediterranean, North Africa and the Middle East, putting more pressure on Prairie chickpea producers to fill that demand, said Darren Lemieux, grain trader with Simpson Seeds of Moose Jaw, Sask.

Chickpea acreage in Western Canada for this year is expected to be 180,000, up from 123,000 harvested acres last year, but far short of the 430,000 acres harvested in 2007, according to Statistics Canada.

Lemieux said there’s been a gradual move away from chickpea seeding in Western Canada because of a short growing season that can cause maturity issues in plants. Chickpeas are also known for being highly susceptible to disease.

Production for chickpeas in Western Canada will likely be 100,000 tonnes, he said. Canada typically exports 100,000 tonnes every year, he added, which means that with more pressure on Western Canada to produce, chickpea supplies should be tight and keep prices going strong.

Depending on whether the crop is the kabuli or desi variety of chickpeas, prices are sitting between 30 and 35 cents per pound, "which would indicate that supplies are not going to be adequate," said Dale Risula, provincial specialist for specialty crops with Saskatchewan’s agriculture ministry in Regina.

Until Canada can find a way to prevent the disease issues associated with chickpeas, the country won’t be able to be a big contributor to filling global demand, he said.

Instead, he expects other countries such as Australia to fill in for ailing top producers such as India and Turkey.

"The other factor involved is that consumers of chickpeas are also very good at finding substitutes," Risula said. "So if there aren’t enough chickpeas out there, or if the price is too high, they will substitute different types of pulses."

– Ryan Kessler writes for Commodity News Service Canada, a Winnipeg company specializing in grain and commodity market reporting.