Pulse weekly outlook: India likely in need of more lentils

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MarketsFarm — A recent webinar co-hosted by the India Pulses and Grains Association and Pulse Australia focused on lentil production in the two countries, with tighter Indian supplies likely leading to increased import demand going forward.

“The share of Australian lentils in India’s import has been 10 to 15 per cent over the last seven-eight years and almost 80 to 90 per cent of its chickpeas’ requirements came from Australia until December 2017,” Saurabh Bhartia, a senior trader with Viterra India and IPGA and GPC executive committee member, said in his opening remarks.

“However, the 66 per cent import duty imposed by the government of India has made it difficult to import from Australia resulting in these imports dropping to almost zero. In 2021, all pulses in India are trading above minimum support price and government stocks have hit a low. Both show we definitely have issues in our production of pulses in the last Kharif and Rabi seasons.”

Anurag Tulshan, managing director with Esarco Exim and IPGA’s east zone convenor, gave an overview of India’s lentils scenario, noting that “the current supply and demand situation is tight.

“The government needs to come forward and make some changes with regard to the duty structure, so as to get in more cargo because going forward, from the month of July until December 2021, we are going to need to import at least 500,000 tonnes of lentils.”

Tulshan said that while the Indian government is currently forecasting a 1.35 million-tonne domestic lentil crop, trade estimates place the actual crop size closer to a million tonnes or less. With total consumption estimated at 1.8 million to two million tonnes per year, the country will depend on imports.

India currently has an inventory of about 350,000 to 400,000 tons of red lentils, including around 200,000 tonnes of imported red lentils and about 150,000 to 200,000 tonnes of Indian desi red lentils, according to Tulshan. “This should last for two and a half months after which we need to import more.”

Nick Poutney, a regional manager with GrainCorp and director with Pulse Australia, said that while the Indian government may be overestimating the country’s lentil production, the Australian government may be underestimating Australia’s lentils production.

Most industry estimates consider the 2020-21 Australian lentil crop at about 800,000 tonnes or higher, he said, well above the official government forecast of 634,000.

However, with steady to slightly higher acreage planted but with a reversion back to average yields, the 2021-22 crop should achieve about 500,000 tonnes, according to Poutney.

— Phil Franz-Warkentin reports for MarketsFarm from Winnipeg.

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