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Black Sea region produces seven percent less pulses, 17.10.20

Countries likely to export 1.9 million tonnes, similar to last year but well below the record of 3.1 million tonnes

Russian farmers produced a good-sized pea crop but are unhappy with the prices, says an analyst from the region.

Dmitry Rylko, chief executive officer of the Institute for Agricultural Market Studies, estimates that growers harvested 2.6 million tonnes of yellow peas, a slightly bigger crop than last year.

He is forecasting 900,000 tonnes of exports, which is more than either of the last two years but below the record of 1.3 million tonnes shipped in 2017-18.

Russia had already exported 267,000 tonnes of yellow peas as of Sept. 22. The country is the world’s second biggest exporter behind Canada.

However, Russia’s pea farmers are very displeased with the prices they are getting, which are equivalent to 12.5 percent protein wheat prices.

That doesn’t cut it when yellow pea yields in southern Russia average 48 bushels per acre compared to 74 bu. per acre for wheat.

“With such prices, of course yellow peas do not look as appealing as wheat,” Rylko told delegates attending Pulses 2.0, a virtual conference hosted by the Global Pulse Confederation.

He said pulse production comes and goes in waves in Russia and the current situation would suggest “total disappointment” with yellow pea production.

Chickpeas are a different story. Russian farmers are expected to produce 500,000 tonnes of the crop and export 450,000 tonnes, which would be close to last year’s record of 475,000 tonnes. The crop is of good quality.

Chickpea prices are 2.5 times that of wheat prices, resulting in encouraging profit margins for growers.

Lentils are a crop that is in its infancy in Russia with an estimated 170,000 tonnes of production and the potential for a record 160,000 tonnes of exports.

Onur Ozdemir, international trade manager for Sintez Group, said peas are Ukraine’s top pulse crop by a wide margin.

He was initially forecasting more than 700,000 tonnes of production but now thinks it will be closer to 600,000 to 650,000 tonnes because of drought and flooding.

Ukraine has already exported 300,000 to 350,000 tonnes of the crop and has another 200,000 tonnes remaining to be shipped before July, 2021.

The yellow peas, which make up the majority of Ukraine’s production, are of good quality, but there is plenty of bleaching of the green peas.

Wheat prices are higher than pea prices in Ukraine, so growers will hold onto the remaining supplies until prices rise.

Ozdemir is forecasting 40,000 tonnes of chickpea production to add to the 15,000 tonnes of carryout from last year. The country is able to produce some large-calibre chickpeas.

Lentil production is miniscule due to poor prices, with farmers harvesting an estimated 8,000 to 10,000 tonnes of reds and greens combined.

Sergey Feofilov, director general of UkrAgroConsult, said overall Black Sea pulse production is down about seven percent compared to last year.

Growers harvested about 4.3 million tonnes of all pulses, well below the 2017-18 record of 6.3 million tonnes.

He expects the region to export about 1.9 million tonnes, which is similar to last year but again well below the 2017-18 record of 3.1 million tonnes.

The European Union has displaced India as the top buyer, accounting for 41 percent of Ukraine’s pea exports and 28 percent of Russia’s in 2019-20.

Kazakhstan used to be the big Black Sea player in the lentil market, but production is way down in that country.

Feofilov is forecasting less than 50,000 tonnes, down from 250,000 tonnes a couple of years ago.

“Farmers there decided to switch to wheat,” he said.

Rylko has been impressed with Russia’s lentil production.

He recalls touring Canadian lentil fields 10 years ago and being told Russia would never be a player because Russian fields were too uneven to grow the crop and the seeds were too small for Russia’s machinery.

Yet now the country is set to export 160,000 tonnes of lentils.

“It’s moving forwards and upwards very quickly to my surprise,” he said.

Rylko hopes dry beans will be the next pulse crop that Russian farmers embrace.

“I am dreaming about Russian production and Russian exports of coloured beans,” he said.

“It’s unutilized opportunity for my country.”

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