Large lentil crop facing weather concerns

Red lentils. (Pulse Canada photo)

CNS Canada — Canadian farmers planted the most lentils in five years in 2014 — but quality issues are already starting to emerge that could underpin prices going forward, according to a market analyst.

Updated acreage estimates from Statistics Canada, released Friday, pegged lentil area in the country at 3.24 million acres, which was up from an earlier estimate of 2.86 million and well above the 2.39 million seeded to the pulse crop in 2013.

The big acreage increase was not much of a surprise to the industry, as many farmers were looking for alternatives to other crop options, said analyst Chuck Penner of Leftfield Commodity Research. All of the acreage increase went into red lentils, with green lentils down on the year, he added.

While some fields were left unseeded in parts of western Manitoba and eastern Saskatchewan due to wet weather this spring, Penner expected all of the intended lentil acres were seeded. However, what’s in the ground is now dealing with excess moisture and is starting to yellow.

“We’re not really thinking about the acres so much anymore, but what will (excess moisture) do to yields?” Penner said, adding that lentils do not do well under wet conditions. Stunted growth and disease issues are both a concern.

Saskatchewan grows most of the country’s lentils, and he expected to see quality declines in upcoming provincial reports.

While production problems are starting to be seen, Penner said it was still too early to result in a movement in price. “You need to get the attention of the overseas buyers… and it usually takes them longer to respond to the situation.”

Strong demand for red lentils, particularly from India and Turkey, should keep prices well supported going forward, even with the larger acreage base, said Penner.

For green lentils there is even more potential to the upside, given the reduced planted acres and mounting yield concerns. A poor monsoon season in India should also lead to increased demand.

“It will be a good year for lentil growers, provided they get the crop off,” said Penner.

— Phil Franz-Warkentin writes for Commodity News Service Canada, a Winnipeg company specializing in grain and commodity market reporting.

 

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