It’s apparent that Mother Nature woke up on the wrong side of the bed this growing season. She gave us one of the most challenging weather seasons in recent years, from drought to flooding, hail, wind storms and frost. September showed little mercy to later seeded crops.
All crops will suffer some kind of damage from excessive rain, be it by yield loss, quality loss or both. In the case of lentils, however, the loss of quality happens very quickly and easily. Losses can add up quickly.
Generally speaking, red lentils are considered to handle adverse weather better than large green (Laird-type) lentils. This is true for a couple of reasons. One, the smaller seed size of the red lentil allows it to be less susceptible to mechanical damage in handling in any year, and bad weather makes this even more important. Secondly, the exterior colour of red lentils is less important to buyers. Visual appeal is important for those lentils that are consumed whole, but since the majority of red lentils consumed in the world are peeled and split, the actual colour of the seed coat is simply not relevant.
That being said, weathered lentils do present a challenge to those who peel and split lentils. This is true regardless of whether the processor is in Canada or if the whole reds are being exported to a splitter elsewhere. Extreme weathering will present multiple challenges to your buyer. Moisture level is one issue, though that can be somewhat corrected prior to delivery. Deliveries of whole red lentils even at the specified CGC dry moisture content of 13 per cent are not easily milled by the buying company. Additionally, deep stains in the seed coat can cause the seed coat to adhere more sturdily to the cotyledon thus reducing the milling capacity of the sample.
Finally, as with all lentil samples, even pristine lots, there are losses associated with the peeling and splitting process. The more adverse weather lentils must endure, the more brittle they will become and the more volume loss there will be as the lot is processed. Buyers surely take this into account and try to assess the final yield they can achieve. The price you receive is adjusted accordingly.
Unlike their ruddy cousins, green lentils rely heavily on their visual appearance. That is true for Laird, Richlea and Eston varieties. Green is the color of money and the more vibrant the green the more value. Generally, any weathering shows up by impacting the seed coat colour, so it’s safe to say that lentils with very good colour usually do not have issues with staining and damage due to weathering.
This season it appears the majority of the large green lentils will not make a number one. In recent years much of the trade of No. 1 green lentils has been replaced by the so-called extra No. 2. The “extra two” is essentially a number one but with slightly weaker colour. If you have been fortunate enough to harvest good-quality one, extra two or a decent two you hold something that will only appreciate in value in the face of a tough harvest.
Richlea-type lentils are largely traded into a No. 2 market. It is no secret that those who buy No. 1 green lentils prefer the larger-sized Laird type. That being said, if you have been able to harvest some Richlea’s and achieve number one quality it is worth some discussions with your marketing company on the best strategy. These could become valuable as a replacement in some markets (for large greens) and could be used to blend into lower-quality shipments to upgrade the colour and quality. In any case think twice about the first offer you receive for your prettiest lentils regardless of size.
Eston type lentils are most commonly traded as a number one, though there is strong movement for good-looking No. 2 cargo as well. Top-quality Estons could be in limited supply this season. Values for both should increase.
Trying to asses values this season will be difficult. At the time of writing, much of the lentil crop was still in the field. How much damage has occurred? Will the balance of lentils harvested grade a two or better? The answers will have a significant impact on the price.
My recommendation is if you’ve harvested anything grading number two or higher, hold for higher values as this will almost certainly be the case. In the case of No. 1 quality Lairds, feel free to be a little greedy. Forty cents for the top of the pile won’t be unreasonable.
If you have harvested a lowerquality product, it may be an idea to move some now and then see what lentil values do in general. Often X3 prices are dragged along by number two prices. Remember that lowerquality reds may not have the traditional price spreads you are used to on Lairds, due to the lack of milling efficiency.
Reputable processors and marketers will offer fair values. When quality varies dramatically on your harvested acres, discuss your crop as a whole for maximum value. Keep tuned into the marketplace because the market for lower quality lentils can come and go on short notice. Above all, be realistic about what quality you have for delivery.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, yes, but an ugly lentil is always an ugly lentil.