The Indian chickpea harvest is now underway but already analysts say yields are likely to fall well short of domestic requirements.
An early retreat of the monsoonal planting rain in India, followed by poor in-crop rain has farmers harvesting below average yields from the already reduced plantings.
That’s putting upward pressure on prices in Australia and fueling speculation that the 2016 Queensland chickpea crop could be up to 20 per cent larger than the 2015 record plant.
“India can be the biggest importer of chickpeas but they are also the largest producer, producing between five and seven million tonnes of Desi chickpeas a year,” Nidera Australia pulse trader Rob Brealey said.
“They also consume about six million tonnes a year so, like last year, it looks like they will produce less than they consume again this year.”
That deficit was helping to push local chickpea prices “through the roof” just a month out from the start of planting, Mr Brealey said.
“It varies but at the moment we are looking at upwards of $850/tonne,” the Toowoomba based trader said.
“That’s substantially higher than last year. It got up to that point last year but we started the season considerably lower.”
Mr Brealey is expecting some big fluctuations in price over the season but said the market was “reasonably underpinned”.
“The good prices are sustainable given the demand we are seeing (from India) but I would expect a lot of volatility in those prices,” he said.
Mr Brealey said current prices were also being driven by concerns from local growers about unseasonably hot and dry conditions in key planting areas.
“It’s probably not a dramatic concern for farmers at the moment in relation to planting but it is still stopping them from forward selling in any meaningful way,” he said.
“So while there is plenty of buyer interest there is not a lot of seller interest because we haven’t had the rain to plant.
“These two major factors are combining to see prices edging higher.”
The lure of record prices is proving too much for some chickpea growers sparking warnings from agronomists about the risk of disease outbreak. Read that story here.