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Chickpeas see strength in early harvest returns

Kabuli chickpeas. (PulseCanada.com)

CNS Canada — The chickpea harvest is slowly gathering steam across Western Canada with prices holding steady, despite the harvest pressure.

In Saskatchewan, where the majority of the crop lies, one industry stakeholder estimated a fifth of the crop has been combined.

“Chickpeas are 20 per cent complete or just nicely underway,” said Colin Young of Midwest Investments at Moose Jaw, Sask.

Samples taken so far have revealed some sprouting in the crop; the next few weeks will be crucial in determining the quality of the plants, he said.

“September always tells the tale of chickpea quality and there’s a portion of the crop that will be vulnerable to frost, and if we get a frost event in the next few weeks it means some green kernels will get locked in.”

Whatever the case, Young said, chickpeas can usually be sent to willing buyers, no matter what the grade.

“Doesn’t matter if it’s No. 1, five per cent sprouted or 10. These are easily marketable in volume,” he noted, adding the lowest quality is used for pet food.

India and Pakistan remain the largest chickpea importers in the world, with new markets opening up in South America and Europe, according to Young.

In some fields, he estimated yields to be in the 1,800 lbs./ac. range. At this point, he said, the chickpeas are “sort of running along” with the wheat crops in southern Saskatchewan.

“A lot of growers are using the Orion variety, which produces 10-, nine- and eight-millimetre calibre. There’s more value in growing large-calibre chickpeas, as it gives them a higher per-pound return.”

Young said he expects the market to “stay sideways” and doesn’t feel there’s any downward pressure at this point.

Growers, he said, are generally receiving 33 cents per pound for 10-mm Orion chickpeas, with 30 cents per pound for 9s and 25 cents per pound for 8s and 7s.

“The reason prices have stayed firm is because competing countries have kept their prices firm,” Young said.

Harvest isn’t expected to wrap up until later in the fall.

“A lot of chickpea growers have Thanksgiving turkey and then go fire up the combine,” said Young.

Early September traditionally reveals the best-quality chickpeas, he said, while the more damaged stuff usually rears its head around Thanksgiving.

Dave Sims writes for Commodity News Service Canada, a Winnipeg company specializing in grain and commodity market reporting.

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