Pulse markets showing strength — how many acres can go in?

What do you get when two Canadians descend on the Northern U.S.? Why, a pulses market outlook, of course. This week, Chuck Penner of Leftfield Commodity Research, was a keynote speaker at the Northern Pulse Growers Association AGM. Shaun Haney hosted RealAg Radio from the meeting, and that gave the pair a chance to talk pulse market moves, acreage choices, and how pulses are faring in the battle for acres.

“Pulses are in a good spot,” Penner says, referring to Leftfield’s Market Strength Scorecard, where pulses are leading the way for the 2024 season.

What’s driving the rosy outlook? The dry bias in Western Canada and the pulse regions of northern U.S. have bitten in to pulse supplies, for sure. But there are larger factors globally that are further creating a tight supply/demand dynamic for peas and lentils.

“We had penciled India out of the picture again for this year, and then, as we were watching the last number of months, pea prices in India started to move higher and higher,” Penner says, adding they suspected a tariff on imported peas would be dropped, which did happen in early December.

The zero tariff and removed import restrictions end on March 31, 2024, for now, but Penner puts the odds at 50/50 whether that gets extended. Either way, it signals more India buying of peas, possibly for the entire year ahead.

Moving to chickpeas, the market has been relatively quiet, even with strong export numbers, Penner says. The U.S. is a major market for Canadian chickpeas, though some go to Pakistan and other overseas markets. A smaller acreage crop, chickpeas don’t have as positive an outlook for the coming year, but are still a player.

Seed availability can be a factor in deciding how many acres of each pulse type gets planted, and Penner says this year there has been talk of more green peas going into the U.S., further tightening seed supply.

What happens if significantly more pea crop goes in? Penner says pulse markets can be very inelastic for demand, so pricing in some profit when you can could be a good strategy, especially if some moisture returns to the pulse growing regions.

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