Slow demand limits upside potential for pulses

Canada grew a million fewer tonnes of peas in 2011 compared to the previous year, but the tighter supplies are still not enough to generate any strength in the sluggish market.

Statistics Canada pegged the country’s 2011-12 pea production at 2.1 million tonnes in its latest report, released Tuesday. That was up slightly from an October report, but still well below the three million grown the previous year.

Saskatchewan, the major lentil growing province, produced about 1.4 million tons of the crop, which compares with 1.8 million the previous year, according to StatsCan.

"Lower levels of peas are probably good (from a pricing standpoint)," said Cam Laxdal with the Winnipeg office of Lakeside Global Grains, noting demand has backed away for the commodity recently.

The global financial crisis was a major factor limiting demand from some sectors. India, a major customer for Canada’s pea crop, saw a 15 per cent devaluation of its currency this September, which has impacted buyers there, said Laxdal.

Relatively good pulse production in Turkey, Australia and India was also reducing demand for Canadian pulses, said Laxdal, who described the current market as the "slowest" in 10 years.

With little demand coming forward right now, Laxdal expected to see reductions in both pea and lentil acres in the spring.

Green peas are currently priced as high as $9.25 per bushel in Western Canada, while yellow peas are topping out at about $8 per bushel, according to Prairie Ag Hotwire data.

Large green lentils are topping out in the 28-29 cents per pound area, while red lentils are bringing up to 18 cents.

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