MARKETS for Australia’s major pulse crops have firmed since Easter as growers in all regions get busy with planting at the expense of out-turning product stored on farm.
Solid demand from South Asia on lentils, Pakistan on chickpeas, Egypt on faba beans and China on mungbeans has seen values for all four commodities firm.
Planting of faba beans, field peas, lentils and lupins is taking place in mostly ideal conditions as the mungbean harvest passes the halfway mark and growers prepare to expand a slightly increased area of chickpeas from next month.
Traders are paying around $580 per tonne for CHKPM product delivered Brisbane port, and $550/t delivered to packers on Queensland’s Darling Downs.
“That’s up $20 over the past few weeks, which has a bit to do with currency and demand,” ETG trader Shayne Clark said.
Overall, the chickpea market has risen $50/t since the end of March.
The stronger market has attracted selling interest from growers, but only in the narrow window between the recent end of their sorghum harvest, and the start of winter-crop planting.
“Farmers are concentrating on sowing now, and a lot are aiming for the new financial year before they sell any more,” Mr Clark said.
Low prices and wet conditions saw last year’s NSW chickpea area plummet to 160,000 hectares, down from 280,000ha in 2021-22, compared with a more modest drop in Queensland to 200,000ha from 293,000ha.
Early indications are that NSW area will be up a little, while little change is expected in Qld area when the crop is planted, primarily next month.
“The general consensus is…area will bigger than last year.”
In the harvest just gone, Australia produced 541,000t of chickpeas from 398,000ha, well down from the 2021-22 crop of 1,062,000t from 616,000ha.
Early estimates are putting the 2023-24 crop at 600,000-700,000t following two seasons where wheat has pushed its area limit, and growers are looking for a broadleaf crop to help control weeds, and minimise disease risk and root-lesion nematode populations.
“On what we’re hearing…I think sowings will be up for sure from growers or brokers,
“From a rotational point of view, the farmer has to go back into pulses or canola,
Pakistan remains the volume buyer, having transitioned from a container-only to a bulk and container market over the past year.
“There is interest from Pakistan; their crop is being harvested at the moment, and yields aren’t as good as what they thought.
“They’ll be buyers until their new crop next year.”
Pakistan is currently buying around 30,000-40,000t per month in bulk and boxes, and taking downgraded CHKPM as well as top grade CHKP1 in straight or blended parcels.
Mr Clark said some heavily downgraded chickpeas remain unsold from the two most recent harvests.
Bangladesh demand is expected to be confined to around 5000-10,000t per month for the foreseeable future.
“Post Ramadan, they have very little demand for chickpeas.”
While India’s desi chickpea crop now being harvested is expected to be smaller than last year’s, no sign exists of India dropping its tariff.
Woods Group trader Steve Foran said grower interest in selling has fallen away.
“There are still plenty out there, and it’s more about guys getting to them now that they’re on their tractors.
“There’s not so much interest now, but post 30 June, you’ll see more come to market.”
Electronic trading platform Clear Grain Exchange (CGX) reports it has seen CHKP1 trade port equivalent at $583/t Newcastle and $600/t Brisbane in the past week.
“These values are up on previous trading activity, with values last seen at $455 Newcastle some three months ago,” CGX general manager Trent Smoker said.
Egyptian demand for faba beans has seen the delivered port market gain around $40/t since late March, with beans delivered Port Adelaide trading at around $430-$440/t, and feed mills around Melbourne bidding $450-$470, depending on location.
Viterra alone is booked to ship around 90,000t of faba beans out of South Australia this month.
“The bulk export pace to Egypt has picked up a bit at the moment,” Agri-Oz Exports managing director Francois Darcas said.
“This is still a much slower pace than in the past two years, reflecting continuing scarcity of forex in Egypt, but domestic feed buying is a lot more active than in past years so the market is relatively well supported.”
Faba beans are being planted in South Australia, Victoria and NSW across an area expected to be similar to last year.
Canola area is expected to be up considerably in far northern NSW and southern Qld this year, which will limit area planted to faba beans in the north where the subsoil moisture profile is full.
“We’ve had some pretty good selling on faba beans at around $350-$400/t delivered,” Mr Foran said of the norther market.
Fabas generally find solid demand from the northern domestic stockfeed market, and Mr Foran said some growers were planting them now to meet this.
CGX has seen Nipper lentils trade at $848/t Port Giles port equivalent in the past week, up around $50/t from pre-Easter levels.
“These traded prices are in line with levels seen in both Port Adelaide and Port Giles around Easter when trade activity reached $853 port equivalent in both zones.”
Mr Smoker said overall trading activity in lentils in SA increased in March as buyers matched seller offers, many of which had been in the market for some time.
“Based on offers currently on the exchange, sellers are targeting levels slightly above the highs seen around Easter.”
Planting of lentils is progressing well and at the ideal time in SA and Victoria.
Australian Grain Export trader Will Alexander said lentil prices have stayed firm as demand absorbs volume being offered.
“I think plenty of lentils are out there still, even with the massive export pace,” Mr Alexander said, adding they may have to meet a softer market.
“I feel farmers will start unloading volumes if prices turn; other commodities are all falling, so lentils look like a standout right now.
Larger Jumbo lentils are trading at $920/t delivered Adelaide Plains packer, and up to $100/t less for the small red types.
“Demand has been massive for bulk from SA and also, to a lesser extent, from Victoria.
“Canadian seeding is now under way, and their crop will dictate where this goes next.”
The mungbean crop now being harvested is expected to produce 60,000t, roughly half the size of last year’s crop.
Most of the NSW crop and close to half the Qld crop have been harvested, with the midfield processing grade the dominant quality to date.
Solid demand from China coupled with the limited supply has seen processing mungbeans trading at $1450 and manufacturing at $1350/t, both up around $100/t in the past month.
Deacon Seeds managing director Mark Schmidt said two distinct quality grades were being seen.
“There’s either really poor quality…or good processing quality.”
Early planted mungbeans have generally been low yielding, and some have had a considerable percentage of yellow-orange seed to reflect stress caused by hot and dry conditions at pod fill.
Source: Grain Central