Pea growers weigh demand opportunities against root rot

Green peas. (PulseCanada.com)

CNS Canada — Pea acreage in Western Canada could rise by five to 10 per cent this year, according to one industry expert, who notes root rot threatens to curtail that projection.

Demand from India, China and Bangladesh is strong and that means total pea area could hit four million acres, said Carl Potts, executive director for Saskatchewan Pulse Growers. Canadian farmers planted nearly 3.8 million acres to peas in 2014, according to Statistics Canada.

“Demand from those areas has been strong, particularly in the first part of the crop year,” said Potts. “We’ve had record exports on a monthly basis and moved a lot of product out.”

Most old-crop supplies are already accounted for while demand from India is expected to continue into next year, said Dale Risula, Saskatchewan’s provincial specialist for pulse crops in Regina.

“Demand from Asia, particularly India, has already put a serious dent in the amount of old-crop Canada still has available,” he said.

“What we’re seeing right now is pea prices being relatively strong compared to other crops,” said Potts, noting an expected increase in yellow peas would likely mean a slight decrease in green varieties this time around.

According to Prairie Ag Hotwire, spot prices for green peas and yellow peas were $7.50 to $8 per bushel as of Monday.

Demand from Chinese markets is also on the upswing, Risula said.

“China uses it to process it for the starch and makes noodles. It’s a growing market in China that’s been growing every year,” he said.

The problem facing producers over the past few year, the majority of whom live in Saskatchewan, has been chronic root rot, both Risula and Potts said.

“Lots of producers still face problems with root rot and other diseases so there is a lot of consideration in growing faba beans instead,” Risula said.

Those concerns are echoed by Potts, who said he’s hoping for a dry spring.

“I’m hoping we can get the crop in early and don’t have massive rains that create conditions for root disease,” he said.

Spring weather will likely play a large factor in how many peas are planted, Risula said.

“If it looks like it might be a drier year, I think a lot of producers will once again stick with peas, because they’re used to growing them, they know how to grow them.”

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

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