Strong red lentils to draw in acres

CNS Canada –– Red lentil bids in Western Canada are showing some strength, which may bring more acres to the crop this spring.

“We’ll be quite tight on red lentils going into the fall,” said Bobby Leavins of Rayglen Commodities in Saskatoon on the relative strength in the market. Good export demand, together with weather issues in India and Turkey, were also supportive.

While the logistical issues causing difficulties moving product in Western Canada this year have not left the lentil market unscathed, the country remains one of the only sources of supply for the time being and companies have concentrated on moving red lentils given the better opportunities.

Looking ahead to the spring seeding ideas, Leavins expected to see a sizeable increase in lentil acres, especially in red lentils. He had heard some estimates calling for red lentil area alone of three million acres, which would top the usual average for total lentil seedings.

Tight fertilizer supplies are causing producers to look toward planting more pulses, with red lentils penciling out quite well, said Leavins.

Canadian farmers (predominantly in Saskatchewan) planted 2.4 million acres of lentils in 2013, growing a 1.9 million-tonne crop, according to Statistics Canada data. Of that total, red lentils accounted for just over half of the total production.

Early forecasts from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada call for an increase in total lentil acreage, to 2.7 million, but a decline in total production, to 1.7 million tonnes, due to a return to average yields. The early AAFC forecasts don’t break down by lentil type.

Spot bids for red lentils can currently be found in the 20 to 23 cents per pound area, with new-crop bids of about 20 cents/lb., according to Prairie Ag Hotwire data. Meanwhile, green lentil bids are topping out at 20 cents/lb. for No. 1 Lairds, with new-crop prices in the 17.5- to 18.5-cent area.

Looking ahead, Leavins said prices could easily fall if the planted area lives up to expectations and farmers get a good crop. However, given the tight supply situation, continued strength is also a possibility if there are any problems over the growing season.

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

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