CNS Canada — Cheap Russian exports of chickpeas are driving down the cost of the commodity worldwide, though one Canadian marketer says a new type of seed is helping domestic growers make financial inroads.
“We’re still facing stiff competition from other producing countries, primarily B90 (seeds) out of Russia,” said Colin Young, owner of Midwest Investments at Moose Jaw, Sask.
Russian seeds are shipped into the Middle East where they are reclaimed, sorted and repackaged, he said. The chickpeas are dirty, but the bulk delivery method makes them cheaper than yellow peas, according to Young.
“They’re flooding Indian and Middle Eastern markets with incredibly cheap, low-grade chickpeas,” Young stressed, adding Argentinian supplies were also instrumental in taking the Middle East off Canada’s main export list.
Fortunately, he said, the newly-introduced Orion seed is having a positive impact on the Prairies.
“Agrology-wise, they’re just about as good as the Frontier (seed); they produce the same yield, they have about the same maturity, but with the seed size there’s inherently about a five- to seven-cent a pound increase on the market.”
Orions, in their first year of commercial availability, appear to have been well accepted by Canadian producers, said Young, estimating Orion-seeded plants make up 25 per cent of this year’s crop.
However, given this spring and summer’s “terrible weather, the quality isn’t good,” Young said, adding the majority of the good-looking Orion chickpeas will likely be retained into the seed market.
Sprouting was another problem, and the market took a long time to get going due to that uncertainty. However, it isn’t anything Canadian growers can’t handle, he said.
“If you can’t market an off-grade product of chickpeas, you really can’t market chickpeas, because in Canada we’re so vulnerable to quality,” he said, acknowledging there are good markets for crops five to 15 per cent green, all the way up to half-green.
Young estimated Frontier seeds were earning 18 cents a pound while Orion seeds were getting returns over 25 cents a pound.
He pegged this year’s Canadian crop at 100,000 pounds but adds it’s still too early to know for sure.
Four years ago, prices for some chickpeas were near 50 cents a pound, he explained. As a result, most areas in the world expanded their plantings and watched the price go down. Four years later, the price is much lower and there are significant stockpiles of chickpeas sitting around the world.
“We’re experiencing a huge amount of carryover in Canada relative to our production every year, just like everywhere else in the world,” said Young.
Despite the challenges, Canadian chickpeas are the best in the world, he said.
“We only have one competitor in the world and that’s Mexico, which has the weather to grow the 10- to 12-millimetre chickpea varieties,” he explained.
— Dave Sims writes for Commodity News Service Canada, a Winnipeg company specializing in grain and commodity reporting.