Strong new-crop prices could entice more pea, lentil area

CNS Canada — Stronger prices for new-crop lentils and peas over the past few weeks could lead to an increase in Canadian acreage compared to the Statistics Canada estimates released last week.

“You have to look at the timing of when the survey was done for the StatsCan report. Of course there’s a bit of lag there, and there’s been some strength in lentil prices in particular since that survey occurred,” said Carl Potts, executive director of Saskatchewan Pulse Growers.

Statistics Canada conducted its planting survey between March 18 and 31, when western Canadian prices for new-crop lentils ranged from 18 to 28 cents per pound, and peas came in around $7-$8.50 per bushel.

As of Thursday, new-crop lentil prices ranged from 18 to 32 cents per pound, with peas holding steady to late March, Prairie Ag Hotwire data shows.

StatsCan estimated Canadian pea area for 2015 at 3.83 million acres — up from 3.795 million the year prior, but at the low end of expectations ranging from 3.7 million to 4.5 million.

Lentil area was also on the lower end of pre-report guesses ranging from 3.2 million to 3.8 million acres, at 3.35 million acres. In 2014, 3.11 million acres of lentils were seeded in Canada.

The strong new-crop prices, paired with good global export demand for both crops, are driving the expectations calling for even higher acreage than StatsCan predicts.

Prices are likely to remain strong even if there’s a larger jump in area, as other countries, such as India, are expected to remain large buyers.

“An increase in Canadian supplies should not be burdensome on international markets,” said Potts.

Some Prairie farmers, however, may decide to hold back on their pea and lentil area this year.

“We’ve had some issues with root disease on lentils and peas, particularly in areas that are a little bit wetter,” Potts said. “So, there may be some areas where growers choose to lengthen their rotations with peas and lentils, which could be a bit of an offsetting factor.”

Either way, it appears to be a good year for both crops so far, with fieldwork and planting underway in parts of Saskatchewan.

“It looks like it’s going to be sort of an on-track start to seeding for pulse crops this year,” Potts said.

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

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