Light trade, sluggish exports flatten chickpea traffic

Light trade in the chickpea market has left prices in Western Canada little changed over the past few weeks.

“It’s hard to get a real sense for the market because there are not really enough chickpeas moving right now,” said Colin Young of R. Young Seeds Ltd. at Mortlach, Sask., west of Moose Jaw.

Grower bids in Saskatchewan are sitting at 30 cents a pound for old-crop nine-millimetre Kabuli chickpeas, 25 cents for eight-mm and 20 cents for seven-mm chickpeas, he said.

There has been steady selling interest from farmers at that price level although many growers are not marketing their chickpeas aggressively right now, Young said.

“It’s not that the chickpea market is horrible, it is just the perception of what the relative value should be due to the additional cost of growing chickpeas,” he said. “Growers figure that if lentils are selling for, say, 30 cents a pound, then chickpeas have to be 40 cents a pound. But they’re at profitable at these levels.”

On the demand side, chickpea exports have been sluggish because of the price tag and Canadian exporters are not willing to sell chickpeas for what would be considered a competitive global price, Young said.

“The other issue is that the new variety that everyone is growing because of its superior disease resistance produces mainly eight-mm Kabuli chickpeas. When we get into the smaller caliber chickpea markets, Canada faces stiff competition from lower cost producers such as Turkey, North Africa or Russia,” he said.

For new-crop chickpeas, Young said some buyers are still holding back on offering prices until things are further along, himself included.

Many people expect 2009-10 chickpea acreage to be fairly similar to last year’s size, but the merchandiser thinks a slight increase is likely based on what he has heard from farmers in his area.

That said, chickpea production in Western Canada will still be small compared to levels seen two to three years back and the crop is behind schedule.

“It’s late, probably a week to 10 days in fact, but a lot depends on what kind of growing season we have from here on out,” Young said.

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