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Bumper chickpea crop looms

AUSTRALIAN growers are set to produce up to 80 per cent more chickpeas this year compared with 2014 on the back of historically high prices last year.

And now the race is on to get Australian chickpea exports underway before domestic supply in India, the world’s largest producer, can replenish the low stocks currently keeping Australian prices high.

Rob Brealey, pulse trader with Toowoomba grain trader PentAG Nidera said there are mixed reports out of India about the hectares likely to be planted to chickpeas this month following recent rain on the subcontinent.

“Current chickpea stocks in India are very tight following a small harvest last year,” Mr Brealey said.

“Australia prices are high and fear could drive the market higher.

“However, the Indian crop will begin to come online in late January, and a good harvest could relieve concerns over stock levels, seeing the buying enthusiasm at these prices quickly evaporate.

“Australia needs to largely complete its export program by January to be in market before domestic supply ramps up.

“To put the situation in perspective, a four per cent swing from wheat to chickpeas in India will produce an increase in domestic production equivalent to Australia’s entire production.”

A mild September has slowed Australian crop development, pushing back harvest.

“From a logistics perspective, we would like to have chickpeas available now to pack in greater volumes. However, it is now probable we will move to a massive November harvest and a more compressed shipping window,” said Mr Brealey.

“It takes about 45 days from the time our product is packed, delivered to the port, shipped, discharged in India and delivered into the local market.

“To have our product arrive well before the market is provided with local product we need to ship through October, November and December.”

While all the focus is currently on India, PentAG Nidera is also closely watching the supply and demand balances in other key markets, including Pakistan, UAE, Nepal and Bangladesh. These markets are not buying at current prices but will have import demand requirements.