Red varieties driving lentil acreage increase

Red lentils. (Pulse Canada photo)

CNS Canada — As Canada’s remaining old-crop lentils shuffle off to buyers overseas, interest is building in the potential for new crop in 2015.

Chuck Penner of LeftField Commodity Research in Winnipeg said he expects more acres will be planted this spring as a result of the strong interest.

“Oh, there’ll definitely be more; the new-crop bids have been attractive, 25 to 26 (cents per pound), so that’s enough to encourage more acres,” he said.

Bobby Leavins, operations manager for Rayglen Commodities in Saskatoon, agreed more plantings should be on the way.

“I think the trade’s opinion is that the lentil acres will be up at least 15 per cent, probably exclusively on the red lentil side of things,” he said.

Red lentils tend to be more attractive from an agronomic view — and unlike their counterparts, Leavins noted, they typically draw better prices.

“Unless you’re growing a No. 1 green lentil (15 per cent of the production) you’re not getting a premium price,” he said.

Prices for old-crop red lentils, according to Leavins, are in the 16-30 cents/lb. range, with some softening in recent days.

Penner said he’s waiting to see what India, one of the world’s largest growers and users of lentils, will do to the market.

“I’m a little bit nervous about what’s going on in India; prices there are dropping because their harvest is starting up now, so we could see some pressure on red lentil prices in the next little while.”

In 2014, 3.11 million Canadian acres went to lentils, but wet weather impacted their quality.

“We’re not selling great quality (currently), said Penner. “Most of the better-quality stuff is gone, so what we’ll have left at the end of the year will really be the poorer-quality stuff.”

Leavins also noted some concerns over root rot, an issue that cropped up last year for some lentil growers, as well as a potential seed shortage for some varieties.

Dave Sims writes for Commodity News Service Canada, a Winnipeg company specializing in grain and commodity market reporting.

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