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Lentil acres up; chickpeas down

Although transportation issues continue to dominate discussion, 
Marlene Boersch is positive on lentil markets for 2014

Marlene Boersch, co-founder of Mercantile Consulting Venture in Winnipeg, Man., expects to see an increase in lentil production this year, but a decrease in chickpea acreage. While both saw good production in 2013, a lack of movement in chickpeas could mean decreased acreage. On the other hand, good prices, strong movement and an oversaturated wheat market, could lead to an increase in lentil acres.

Lentil markets

In terms of lentil production in Canada, last year was a pretty good year, says Boersch. “We think we had about a 1,700 pound yield,” she says. “Some people think even up to 1,750. And so we managed to produce a 1.8 million ton lentil crop.”

Boersch, who thinks we’re fortunate that the pulse market is not oversupplied, says we’ve seen good things in export markets. With the carryout, we probably have 2.1 million tons available, she says.

“The reason that it’s not more burdensome is that last year we managed to draw down the carryout that we had been carrying around with us, so to speak, for the last three years,” she says. “This is really changing things.

“Most of the carryout in the world actually was in Canada, so we have a much cleaner slate,” Boersch continues. “I think we will do 1.6 million tons of exports.”

While some people expect to see 1.7 million, Boersch doesn’t want to be too aggressive in terms of numbers given this year’s transportation issues.

“It’s no secret that our problems are affecting all crops,” she says.

Official shipment numbers, which are only available to the end of November, show some 604,000 tons as being shipped.

“That’s actually a very good beginning,” says Boersch, who thinks that the numbers indicated at a recent crop production show are inaccurate. “Perhaps they had only looked at bulk shipments,” she says. “But if you include container shipments, it’s a very good start, particularly for red lentils.”

From the Country Guide website: Grainworld: Pulse and special crop are to increase

In total, Boersch says somewhere around 380,000 tons of red lentils have already been shipped, with that number being a little lower for green lentils.

“If we can keep shipments up — and I don’t think you can talk about markets this year without bracketing it with some concerns around transportation — I think 1.6 million tons is in grasp, certainly, if you can keep any speed forward, and that should give us a fairly contained carryout of about 250,000 tons. If we can perform, we’re looking at a fairly good year.”

Overall, Boersch thinks there will likely be an increase in lentil acres. Prices multiplied by expected yields work fairly well relative to other crops, she says.

“And also because lentils are well priced relative to wheat. The problem with wheat is that we will see a very heavy burden in terms of carryout and I think that it might lead people to grow a crop that they can move. I don’t think that it’s out of the question that we have, say a 15 to 18 per cent increase in lentil acres.”

That number would put Canada close to the 2.8 million acre range. Carryout shouldn’t be an issue if shipments stay on track.

“We should have, say, two million to just over a two million-ton crop,” says Boersch. “And again, I should think that exports should be around 1.6 million tons.”

Chickpea markets

When it comes to chickpeas, the outlook isn’t as positive. In fact, Boersch thinks that we’ll see a decline in chickpea acres this year.

“The problem is that movement has been very, very difficult,” she says. “Not many people are spending a lot of time on chickpea marketing, and year-to-date into the end of November we only saw about 9,000 tons moved. That’s behind schedule.

“It makes me worried a bit about this year,” she continues. “When you see such low movement numbers, I think people will be hesitant to plant larger acres. So I think we’ll see, say, 140,000 to 150,000 acres in the coming year, which would be a fair reduction, actually, from the 200,000 we’ve seen this year.”

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