Pulse weekly outlook: Turkey’s record-level lentil imports expected to decrease

Country's domestic acreage expected up in 2021

(Serts/iStock/Getty Images)

MarketsFarm — Canadian lentil exports to Turkey reached unprecedented numbers in 2020. According to Statistics Canada data, Turkey imported 534,160 tonnes worth $355 million during the calendar year, making it the second-largest buyer of Canadian lentils behind India.

Last year’s total nearly equalled the amount of lentils Canada exported to Turkey over the previous three years combined. Turkey also acts as a distribution hub and exports lentils to Africa and the Middle East.

Fethi Sonmez, CEO of Armada Foods in Turkey, said in an interview with the Global Pulse Confederation his company purchased an “extraordinary” 630,000 tonnes of red lentils in 2020 compared to 350,000 from the year before.

Demand for lentils shifted from Kazakhstan to Canada, he said, but added that Turkey’s own acreage for red lentils is expected to increase by 30 per cent in 2021.

“We will have better acreage, but there was a soil problem over the last two months. We are seeing possible drought,” Sonmez said, adding there has been a huge gap between the prices of both Canadian and Turkish red lentils.

“Canada is asking for US$670, US$680 (per tonne for the old crop) and Turkey’s (price) is around US$600… Turkish importers are not ready to pay US$680 today. Maybe in the coming months, the (prices) will be close to each other,” he said, adding he believes Canadian lentil farmers are holding onto their crop until prices strengthen.

According to Prairie Ag Hotwire data from Tuesday, high-delivered bids for crimson lentils ranged from 24 to 30.5 cents/lb., 6.5 to eight cents higher than last year.

Mac Ross, director of market access for Pulse Canada, said the pandemic, a below-average domestic harvest and lowered import tariffs all helped drive lentil exports to Turkey.

Analysts have echoed Sonmez’s sentiments for 2021, according to Ross.

“We’ll still see very strong demand for pulses in Turkey, but maybe we’ll see (exports at) more than 2019 levels but not as much as 2020 levels,” Ross said.

Right now, the focus for Canadian pulse growers and exporters is India.

“We saw over the past year they are willing to adjust their lentil tariffs up and down when needed,” Ross said. “At Pulse Canada, we’re going to push for predictability and transparency in how India runs their import policy and their tariffs.”

— Adam Peleshaty reports for MarketsFarm from Stonewall, Man.

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