Chickpeas seen making Prairie comeback

CNS Canada — Chickpeas should see a resurgence in Western Canada this spring, as farmers who hadn’t seeded the crop for a number of years shift some acres back from other pulses.

“We sold a sizeable amount of chickpea planting seed,” said Colin Young of Midwest Grain at Moose Jaw. After an excellent quality year in 2017, “every existing producer kept their own seed and quite a few other producers jumped back in.”

Those producers had experience from growing chickpeas in the past, but had seeded lentils the past few years due to better returns, he said.

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“Now with lentils at the bottom end of the spectrum and chickpeas performing well, they bought back into the chickpea game.”

Canada’s farmers intend to plant 346,000 acres of chickpeas in 2018, according to a Statistics Canada survey released April 27. That would be the largest chickpea crop in a decade and compares with the 160,000 acres seeded the previous year. Saskatchewan accounts for about three-quarters of the country’s crop.

In south-central Saskatchewan, chickpeas are just being planted now, said Young. Subsoil was dry, but topsoil conditions were ideal for planting, he added.

“We have about a foot of wet dirt,” said Young — enough to get the seedling going, though more moisture will be needed during the growing season.

“We will definitely need a significant moisture event by June 15 to keep the probability of an average to higher-than-average yield alive.”

From a pricing standpoint, contracts had been in the 40-cent/lb. area, but were now closer to 30 cents. Farmers were unwilling to lock in at the lower price levels, Young said, and expected to see more open-marketed non-contracted chickpeas this year.

With other chickpea-growing areas of the world also boosting their acreage, end-users will likely be less forgiving when it comes to quality, said Young.

With extreme shortages the past two years, “if it was chickpea, it was gold” and it didn’t matter size or quality, said Young.

However, “in a year when the probability of supply is high, I believe you’ll see a significant premium for nine-millimetre and larger over the eight/seven.”

Global production is skewed heavily toward smaller-calibre chickpeas, and Young expected to see a five- to six-cent spread for eight/sevens against nine/10s at the farm gate level.

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

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