By Sean Pratt

Exports had previously moved by rail and truck since the two countries signed a phytosanitary agreement last year.

China has cleared the first ocean vessel of Russian peas, according to a trader of the crop.

A ship loaded with 55,000 tonnes of peas that sailed from the Port of Novorossiysk has passed inspection by China’s customs administration.

Peas had previously been moving to China by rail and truck from Russia’s Siberian regions, but this was the first shipload cleared by customs, according to Sergey Pluzhnikov, head of the pulses desk at DM Agro Trade and founder of Russian Pulses Analytics.

An estimated 150,000 tonnes of Russian peas have moved to China since the start of the year, he said in an email.

The new trade route poses a serious threat to Canada in its top pea market.

Trade was made possible by a phytosanitary agreement signed by China and Russia on Oct. 10, 2022.

That protocol paved the way for the importation of Russian peas intended for consumption or processing, but not for seed purposes.

“Deliveries are allowed from all over Russia to enterprises that are approved and registered by the Chinese side,” said Pluzhnikov.

The successful shipment of a load of peas from a deep-water port has given Russian farmers the incentive to get certified to send their peas to China.

China will only allow shipments of peas if the soil, seeds and history of pesticide use on Russian farms have been properly certified.

Pluzhnikov said China provides an “attractive alternative” to Russia’s more traditional markets, such as Turkey and Pakistan.

China offers Russian exporters considerable logistical savings, but he thinks the world’s biggest pea producer will be able to continue servicing its traditional markets as well.

He believes China will import Russian peas for both the food and feed markets. Exporters are capable of shipping clean peas or unprocessed product if China prefers to clean the product itself.

Gaurav Jain, analyst with AgPulse Analytica, is forecasting 1.2 million tonnes of Russian pea exports to China in 2023-24, compared to one million tonnes from Canada.

Pluzhnikov agrees with that forecast.

He believes Russia will produce 3.3 to 3.4 million tonnes of peas this year. The volume would have been higher if planting had not been curtailed by reduced demand and prices out of Turkey and payment issues in Pakistan.

Harvest is underway in the southern part of the country, but a lot will depend on the quantity and quality of peas in the central districts and whether a dry spell cuts yields in Siberia.

Pluzhnikov believes India will one day re-emerge as another market for peas, which would cause a surge in demand.

“Russia still sends lentils there and maintains business relations with the bean market,” he said.

There is also a consistently growing domestic demand for Russian peas in the livestock sector.

He does not see the Russian pea crop shrinking anytime soon because there is plenty of demand, it is an excellent crop to grow before wheat and it allows growers to save on their nitrogen fertilizer costs.

Source: The Western Producer