Indian chickpea woes unlikely to benefit peas


India’s chickpea crop is going to be much smaller than the government is forecasting but that is unlikely to reopen the door to Canadian yellow pea exports to that market, according to an industry analyst.

IGrain India is forecasting a crop of eight to 8.5 million tonnes. That is a far cry from the official government estimate of 11.6 million tonnes.

“There are crop issues throughout India, with the exception of one or two states,” IGrain director Rahul Chauhan said in an email.

If IGrain is correct, it would be the smallest crop since the 7.1 million tonnes produced in 2015-16 and well below the five-year average of 9.8 million tonnes.

The desi chickpea market in India appears to be reflecting a short crop. Prices have been on the rise since the start of 2021. Meanwhile, yellow pea prices are trending down.

India’s short crop could have ramifications for Canadian pea producers. Imported yellow peas can be used as a substitute for Indian desi chickpeas in years when there are supply issues.

“(The) government may have to consider allowing pea imports or reducing the tariff on (chickpeas) to balance supply-demand,” said Chauhan.

But he doesn’t think the former option is likely to happen for the current fiscal year for political reasons.

Imported peas have in the past been used as an “adulteration” in chickpea flour.

“People prefer consuming 100 percent pure (chickpea) flour rather than adulterated,” said Chauhan.

Yellow pea imports have contributed to an oversupply of chickpeas in India, which has negatively affected many farmers.

In response, the government implemented tough import restrictions on yellow peas to increase consumption of Indian chickpeas and reduce government stocks of the crop.

That policy seems to have worked. IGrain reports that India’s chickpea carryout is smaller heading into 2021-22 than it was the previous year.

If there is a big shortage of chickpeas, Chauhan expects India will first look to import desi chickpeas rather than relaxing its yellow pea import restrictions.

Australia produced an estimated 755,000 tonnes of chickpeas this year, a 169 percent increase over the previous year. So it has plenty of desis available for the Indian market if it has a short crop.

IGrain recently hosted a webinar on India’s desi chickpea production and some of the guest speakers were calling for an even smaller harvest than IGrain is forecasting.

Pukhraj Chopra, a trader with Prem Chand Chopra & Company, thinks India’s chickpea production could drop below seven million tonnes, according to a summary of the presentations provided by IGrain.

Gaurav Bagdai, a trader with Wnigs Agro Pvt, estimated that India will produce 7.8 million tonnes of desi chickpeas in 2021-22 and will carry out 19 million tonnes of the crop from the previous year.

He is forecasting 9.37 million tonnes of desi ending stocks in 2021-22, half as much as the previous year. He thinks there could be significant desi chickpea price movement in India in the absence of yellow pea imports.

Vivek Agarwal, a trader with JLV Agro, thinks India will produce eight million tonnes of chickpeas. He anticipates strong demand for the crop depending on government policies.