Global pulse gathering buoyant about future

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Processed lentils pour from a hopper.

Global consumption of pulses is continuing to increase in line with rising global population, according to market information discussed at this year’s gathering of international pulse traders.

Some 920 delegates from 55 countries participated in the Annual Pulse Convention in Dubai in April. The convention was hosted by CICILS International Pulse Trade and Industry Confederation (IPTIC), the non-profit peak body representing a global pulse industry worth more than $100 billion annually.

One of the key messages from this year’s conference was the clear shift in export volume from the more traditional exporting countries such as Turkey and India to Canada/US and Australia. The main reasons cited were climatic conditions resulting in smaller yields and increased domestic consumption in the traditional exporting countries.

There is also an increasing number of newer exporting countries including Ukraine, Russia, Ethiopia and other African nations, China and certain areas of South America.

The senior vice-president of CICILS IPTIC and former CEO of Pulse Australia, Gavin Gibson, spoke about the importance of pulse production to Australian growers as a rotation crop and cited an example where a wheat crop following a field pea crop increased yields by up to 30 per cent.

Mr Gibson also talked about the volatility of pulse production in Australia, where crop sizes for pulses such as lupins and desi chickpeas can vary in harvest size from 300,000 tonnes to one million tonnes depending on climatic conditions.

The convention heard that while pulse production is certainly on the increase in the US and could potentially double in the next five to 10 years, increased competition from more resilient maize and soybean varieties is also a major contender for land that could be used for pulse production.

Brian Clancey, president of Stat Publishing Canada, talked about the difficult past 18 months for the global pulse industry due to some of the following issues:

  • the Canadian lentil carry-over trade of close to one million tonnes upset the global lentil trade equilibrium of supply and demand;
  • currency fluctuations affecting the profitability and ability to pay for cargo;
  • trade sanctions, in particular relating to Iran, which resulted in hundreds of containers being stranded at Mediterranean borders for months;
  • climatic volatility; and
  • phytosanitary issues such as glyphosate and potential GM cross-contamination. 

Looking at individual crops, Mr Clancey outlined that global field pea production was up by about one million tonnes last year to about 9.5 million tonnes in 2012, but this is still down on earlier global production highs.

For lentils, it appears the next global crop will be two-thirds red lentils and one-third green lentils. Contrary to this global trend, Canada will be growing only about 45 per cent red lentils compared with its crop two years ago of 60 per cent red lentils. This should, according to Mr Clancey, maintain prices for red lentils more so than for green lentils.

Regarding broadbeans and faba beans, North America will be planting more, but other parts of the world are experiencing problems with climatic conditions, particularly in South America. Overall, prices are expected to firm.

Both desi and kabuli chickpea production are seen to be on the rise. However, there are still ‘strategic shortages’, such as the Pakistan shortage of desi chickpeas seen earlier this year and India’s downgrading of its forecast for its kabuli chickpea harvest by potentially half the expected yield, to a possible 300,000 tonnes. 

Locally, June to July rains in most pulse-growing regions in Australia have helped pulse crops progress well towards harvest. Continued strong demand and prices for chickpeas encouraged an extra late planting. All in all, the crops in the ground are looking encouraging for Australian production.

Compared with 2011, there has been a doubling in acreage in 2012 for desi and to a lesser degree kabuli chickpeas. Faba and broad bean plantings are more consistent with 2011, with lentils, sweet and albus lupins marginally down on last year. Field pea crops in both WA and the eastern states look to have good yields with planted acreage up about 10 per cent on last year.

Looking ahead, the big unknowns are the drought conditions in the US and the impact of this on wheat and soybeans, and the poor monsoon rains in India. Both factors should contribute to stronger global prices. Against this, however, the Canadian lentil crop is looking healthy. This could soften prices for Australian lentils.

More information:
Karim Takieddine,
karim@gfa.com.au;

CICILS IPTIC, www.cicilsiptic.org

Region National, Overseas