Pulse growers will have to consider low prices and trade barriers as they decide how many acres to plant this spring, the leader of the USA Dry Pea and Lentil Council says.
“It would be wonderful to be optimistic and think all the trade disputes are going to be resolved by the time spring planting comes, but that may be a little too optimistic,” said Tim McGreevy, council CEO.
McGreevy said he expects pulse acres to decline unless trade disputes change.
The U.S. has about 2.2 million acres devoted to pulse crops, with roughly 800,000 acres of peas; 800,000 acres of lentils and 600,000 to 700,000 acres of chickpeas, McGreevy said.
If growers keep a pulse in their crop rotation, they’ll decide which pulse crop to raise, McGreevy said.
Trade tariffs in China and India remain in place, even though there’s been movement with the North American Free Trade Agreement and a recent meeting between President Donald Trump and China President Xi Jinping, McGreevy said.
In spite of the positive discussions, the industry hasn’t seen any sales or inquiries, McGreevy said.
“Maybe we’re in early days, but any discussion towards trying to resolve these trade disputes and tariffs are positive,” he said. “These tariffs are certainly having an impact, but we do not expect them to last forever.”
Domestic sales continue to grow, McGreevy said.
“So it’s not all darkness,” he said. “We believe very strongly that long-term these crops are going to have increased consumption here in the U.S. market as well as overseas.”
Populations continue to grow and pulses are the least expensive proteins available for purchase, McGreevy said. He also pointed to new products and the movement towards more plant-based foods.
“In periods of uncertainty, which we are in, I think it’s best to stay the course and make sure the cropping systems you have in place — which include pulses in the rotation — are part of your bread basket,” he said.