Pacific Northwest chickpea farmers and processors will have to dry about a third of their crop this year because of late-season rains.
“It seems like every three days it would rain again, and it never dried out,” said Todd Scholz, vice president of research and member services for the USA Dry Pea and Lentil Council in Moscow, Idaho.
Nearly 60,000 acres in Idaho and Washington remained unharvested at the beginning of October, Scholz said. The crop was planted late, he said.
Moisture levels were up to 18%. Processors accept a maximum of 13% moisture.
“That put us in a quandary,” Scholz said. “The producers had a crop that was on the ground they couldn’t cut, and the processors wouldn’t accept it.”
Montana and North Dakota chickpea growers also faced significant moisture — “about 10 times as much as us,” Scholz said, adding that there was sprouting in pods. He doesn’t expect a lot of sprout in Idaho and Washington.
He estimates more than 10% of the Pacific Northwest crop was damaged.
Processors brought in dryers and are accepting crop at higher moisture levels to take it through the drying process.
“The only hold-up now is there’s only a limited number of dryers,” Scholz said. “It looks better now than it did maybe two weeks ago.”
Because of the high moisture, the quality of the crop is still in question, Scholz said.
Chickpeas from wetter regions may have greater risk of quality problems, Scholz said. Processors have reported the possibility of dirt damage, discoloration and mold.
“It appears if we can get the crop dry, it’s going to be acceptable quality,” Scholz said.
Chickpeas are presently priced at 15 to 16 cents per pound.
“Every cost you add to the cost of production makes that 15 cents even shorter,” Scholz said.
But chickpea quality or production problems in Canada, Montana, North Dakota, Mexico and Australia could push prices upward.
“There’s certainly chickpeas available because the U.S. had stocks on hand,” Scholz said. “The outlook for the market is positive as you look down the road. The possibilities are interesting, anyway. The cost they put into drying it may well be worth it by the end of the marketing year.”