Strong prices lure chickpeas back to Sask.

Saskatchewan farmers are expected to more than double the area planted to chickpeas in the province this year, as improving prices made the crop a more attractive option.

The acreage increase was “driven by some fairly strong prices for chickpeas relative to where they’ve been the last number of years,” said Carl Potts, executive director of Saskatchewan Pulse Growers in Saskatoon.

Cheaper red lentil bids had also led to some adjustments within the overall pulse profile, he added.

After planting only 105,000 acres of chickpeas in 2011, Saskatchewan farmers were set to more than double their production by seeding 265,000 acres to the crop in 2012, according to Statistics Canada data.

If realized, that would represent the largest chickpea crop in the province since 2007.

Production issues in other major chickpea production regions, particularly a drought in Mexico, have reduced availability of chickpeas and supported prices globally, said Potts.

“It’s primarily a supply side issue that has resulted in stronger prices, which Saskatchewan farmers have responded to,” he added.

Curtis Dunnington of TW Commodities at Swift Current, Sask., said his company had been out of the chickpea market for a number of years, but was now getting back into the crop as the acres come back.

“Buyers seem to think there is considerable demand, and we have the capacity to deal with (chickpeas),” he said.

Old-crop chickpea supplies are very tight, with very little business taking place on the lower-quality stocks still available. Attention is primarily on the new crop, and Dunnington said new-crop kabuli prices were currently around 35 cents per pound.

Aside from a few rain-related seeding delays “at this stage, the (chickpea) crops are looking reasonably good,” said Grant McLean, crop management specialist with Saskatchewan Agriculture in Moose Haw.

He expected total area would end up close to the intentions, although tight inoculum supplies in some cases may have kept a few acres from being planted. “Now we’re just looking for some continued warm, dry weather — which it looks like we’re going to get,” said McLean.

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

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