Total production of pulse crops — dry peas, lentils and chickpeas — in Idaho and Washington was down significantly this year but prices are on the rise.
“There is some reason for optimism in the pulse industry,” said Tim McGreevy, executive director of the USA Dry Pea & Lentil Council. “Here in the Pacific Northwest, they got the quality, just not the yields that they wanted.”
Prices for new crop lentils and green peas have risen a few cents a pound over the past 60 days, said Dirk Hammond, administrative services manager for George F. Brocke and Sons, a processor of peas, lentils and chickpeas in Kendrick, Idaho.
“Supplies are definitely down this year (and) prices for peas and lentils certainly face upward movement,” he said.
A major hail storm and other weather-related challenges in 2014 significantly reduced pulse crop production in Washington and Idaho, which together produce about 85 percent of all the chickpeas in the country and about 20 percent of all peas and lentils.
Hammond said chickpea yields in the region averaged 1,000 pounds an acre, well below the typical 1,500 pounds an acre, and lentil yields also averaged 1,000 pounds, significantly below the typical 1,400.
Green pea yields averaged well above 2,000 pounds an acre last year but about 1,500-1,600 pounds an acre this year.
Pulse farmers in Canada and other states such as North Dakota and Montana have also faced significant growing and quality challenges, and total pulse crop production in North America is down significantly, Hammond said.
“North American yields are down and there are some quality issues, which should support stronger prices down the road,” he said.
Canada, the world’s largest exporter of lentils, had a very poor quality lentil crop this year, said McGreevy.
Lentil prices in the United States are on the rise and are at about 30 cents a pound right now, 5 cents higher than when contract prices were being set earlier this year, he said.
“We are certainly seeing some upward pressure on lentil prices right now, especially if you have any good quality lentils,” he said.
McGreevy said North America will have a limited supply of quality green peas and stock levels for that crop are low.
“Things are looking good for green peas and they potentially could have a little bit of a rally,” he said.
There is a limited supply of quality chickpeas in North America also but stock levels for that crop are higher, McGreevy said. However, chickpea prices are holding firm.
“Chickpea prices are certainly not going down,” he said. “There is the potential we could see some strengthening or pricing in the new year some time.”
While pulse production in Washington and Idaho was off this year, quality was good, said Todd Scholz, the USADPLC’s vice president for research.
“There is a lot of hope ... that prices will go up some, especially for the higher quality stuff (and) it looks like the Pacific Northwest has some pretty good quality stuff,” he said.