How Did Pulse Crops Fare in 2018? - PulsePoint
December 17, 2018
What kind of quality actually came out of harvested crops this year
by Chuck Penner, LeftField Commodity Research
Now that the machinery is safely put away for the winter, it is time to take stock of how 2018 turned out. While each individual farm will have its own good or bad performance, we will be looking at the overall picture, with help from Statistics Canada (StatCan) and the Saskatchewan Ministry of Agriculture (SMA).
In 2018, pulse crop production seemed like a bit of a roller coaster, including some thrills and chills, with outcomes extremely variable even for farms a few miles apart. For some, precipitation was too much, for others too little, and for many, at the wrong time. This year too, crop development was delayed as much as two weeks by forest fire smoke from the west, which meant harvesting in the snow for some, and some reduced quality. Just another season in Western Canada.
After all said and done, the 2018 pea yield turned out exactly the same as last year, according to StatCan. Because of a 12 per cent drop in seeded area, the 2018 crop came in just under 3.6 million (M) tonnes, roughly 0.5 M tonnes less than last year.
This 12 per cent decline was not spread out evenly though. The yellow pea crop was estimated down 16 per cent while green peas were up 10 per cent, and production of other minor classes was estimated 14 per cent higher than a year ago.
According to SMA, the quality of the 2018 pea crop was not as bad as some of us had expected. The grade profile in the last provincial crop report showed 87 per cent in the top two grades, not as good as 2017, but very close to average. This is helping support a solid export program in 2018/19.
The smaller 2018 pea crop more than offset the larger carry-over from 2017/18, meaning that 2018/19 supplies are down somewhat from a year ago, relieving some of the heavy tone in the pea market. That said, a solid export program so far in 2018/19, with some glimmers of hope for Indian demand, could actually cause supplies to tighten up. Firmer prices are already sending some optimistic signals.
Based on what farmers told StatCan, the Canadian lentil crop did not turn out quite as well as peas. The 2018 yield came in at 1,245 pounds per acre (lb/ac) or 20.7 bushels per acre (bu/ac), the lowest yield since 2007/08. The reduced yield, together with a 14 per cent drop in seeded area caused the 2018 crop to come out to 2.1 M tonnes, nearly 500,000 tonnes less than last year.
The drop in production all showed up in red lentils, with that portion of the crop declining by 34 per cent compared to last year. Acreage of green lentils had increased however, especially for large greens, and even with slightly lower yields, green lentil production was 23 per cent larger than last year. That shift away from reds will probably help the market, as India has been a much larger player in the red lentil side of the market.
When it comes to quality, the 2018 lentil crop performed not too badly, with 88 per cent ending up as a No. 2 Canada or better, according to SMA. That is not as good as last year’s 96 per cent but still beats the average quality of 71 per cent in the top two grades.
The smaller Canadian lentil crop provides a little relief for the heavy supply situation, especially for reds, but total supplies in 2018/19 are still nearly 100,000 tonnes more than last year. Just like peas, recent developments in the lentil trade are helping provide a little more optimistic outlook that the worst could be over.
Chickpea yields were also below average in 2018/19, but that was not enough to offset the huge acreage increase. As a result, StatCan pegged the 2018 chickpea crop at 311,000 tonnes, more than double last year’s crop, and the vast majority (over 95 per cent) is Kabuli chickpeas.
Just like the other pulse crops, SMA indicated the quality of the 2018 chickpea crop was lower than last year but better than average. This year, 95 per cent of chickpeas still managed to end up as a No. 2 Canada or better, compared to last year’s 100 per cent and the 10-year average of 78 per cent.
It is not just Canada that has a larger chickpea crop this year, which will make it more difficult to find a home for the big 2018 crop. Some improvement is possible if the Indian crop situation does not turn around, but it looks like heavy supplies could linger in Canadian and North American chickpea markets.
For dry beans, StatCan estimated a record yield of 2,240 lb/ac, which brought the Canadian crop to 341,000 tonnes, six per cent larger than last year and the largest crop since 2006/07. Of this total, StatCan reported that 14,200 tonnes came from Saskatchewan.
The 2018 faba bean crop was estimated by StatCan at 91,300 tonnes, nine per cent less than last year, but that was achieved in spite of a 17 per cent drop in seeded area, as the 2018 yield improved to 44 bu/ac. There were not any quality estimates from SMA for faba beans, but we have heard that the smoke-caused harvest delays resulted in discoloured seeds for some farmers.