End of global chickpea shortage may be in sight [Video]

Columbia Grain’s Tony Roelofs says strong prices, good growing weather and eased supply chains all point to increased chickpea stocks in the coming years.

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Transcription of Feed & Grain Chat with Tony Roelofs, vice president – pulses of Columbia Grain, Inc.

Elise Schafer, editor of Feed & Grain: Hi everyone, welcome to Feed & Grain Chat. I'm your host Elise Schafer, editor of Feed & Grain. This edition of Feed & Grain Chat is brought to you by WATT Global Media and Feedandgrain.com. Feedandgrain.com is your source for the latest news, product and equipment information for the grain handling and feed manufacturing industries.

Today, I'm joined on Zoom by Tony Roelofs, vice president – pulses for Columbia Grain. He's here today to discuss how the global chickpeas shortage is impacting U.S. grain markets. Hi, Tony. Welcome to Feed & Grain Chat!

Roelofs: Thanks for having me, Elise.

Schafer: Yeah, let's get right into it! We're going into the second year in a row with all-time low global chickpea stocks. What factors led to this and how severe is the situation?

Roelofs: Well, Elise, I think we look at first the factors that led into this. We've seen now three-plus years of very tight corn, soybean and wheat stocks. When we get short on these row crops, it creates kind of a ripple effect through all these specialty commodities, as well. They need more acres to supply demand. And then we see a lot of those acres go from our specialty commodities to these row crop acres, and so we've seen a lot more acres go to wheat that normally have traditionally been chickpea acres. As a result, we see our production down and we see tighter supplies in these products as we move forward.

We also have battled drought over the last two years and a lot of the growing area for chickpeas, which has led to below average yields and kept that supply very tight. The situation … it's a bit extreme here in the U.S. where we've seen prices go extremely high. We still have exports out of the U.S. so we won't be running out of hummus anytime soon. But we've certainly seen prices rise as much as 50% to 75% in the last two years alone on chickpeas.

Schafer: Yeah, that is a significant increase. Now what's the planting outlook for chickpeas this spring? Will we gain some ground after the next harvest?

Roelofs: I think we'll gain some ground back this year. We've had really good prices, like I said, for chickpeas which are enticing a lot of growers to expand their acreage. I think we can see the acres up 20 to 25%. We've seen the drought get much better. We've had good rainfall this last fall and good snow cover this winter in the chickpea growing region, so I think we'll see acreage up slightly, which should help production and help us gain some ground in solving this problem.

But it's certainly one that will take more than one year to completely solve this chickpea shortage and get us back to more adequate stocks on a global basis.

Schafer: Certainly. So, what are conditions like for the rest of the pulse crop market — lentils, peas, dried beans?

Roelofs: Lentils have seen the same issues happen to them. We've had acres down, that production down. We've had a lot of drought that's affected the lentil market, supplies have been tight. But demand’s also been very good, which is driven good prices for lentils.

Peas are seeing the same thing. We've seen pet food markets gained a lot of traction. We saw pet ownership up substantially over COVID and those pets are eating a lot of dog food today which peas are a main ingredient in dog food in the U.S.

Also, we see continued demand from pea protein isolate with many plants coming online over the last few years in the U.S. So, demand remains really good for peas and we're having a difficult time getting replenishment from acres as peas compete directly with wheat and other real crops for acreage in the U.S.

Dry beans are a little bit of an anomaly because we had close to record yields last year with good rainfall in North Dakota over the summer, which is the No. 1 growing state for dry beans in the U.S., so we are seeing better stocks on dry beans than we have in the past. But, that being said, we're still seeing good pricing because soybeans are fighting for as many acres as they can get in North Dakota.

Schafer: Right now, what's the transportation outlook for all pulses? How steady are supply chains flowing for ag products out of the PNW?

Roelofs: Transportation has been much improved in the last year, as we saw the global supply chain crisis. In containers, this has really improved in the last six to 12 months. We've seen the vessel backups at Long Beach get better and we're seeing the global shipping lines get back into more of an equilibrium for how they traditionally would run their business versus the extreme measures they had to take during the supply chain crisis.

Now, things are not completely back to normal yet, but we're getting closer every month. Rail transportation is still going through its challenges. They're fighting many issues with severe weather this winter, they're having employee shortages with the tight labor market, and also they face additional regulations in moving product. And so, rail transportation continues to be a challenge and appears it'll continue to be a challenge going forward. So, that is that is one thing that we are still battling on the supply chain standpoint for our agricultural products.

Schafer: Great. Well, Tony, thank you so much for your insights today. That's all for today's Feed & Grain Chat. If you'd like to see more videos like this, subscribe to our YouTube channel, sign up for the Industry Watch daily eNewsletter, or go to feedandgrain.com and search for videos. Thank you again for joining, and we hope to see you next time!

Global chickpea stocks are at a record low, causing prices to rise as much as 50% to 75% over the past two years. Columbia Grain, Inc., a leading processor and exporter of chickpeas, lentils and other pulse crops, operates grain elevators and processing plants all across the Pacific Northwest (PNW). In this Feed & Grain Chat, Tony Roelofs, CGI's vice president – pulses, says tight row crop stocks for the past three years have led to today's chickpea shortage, but the end may be in sight.

Strong prices and demand, coupled with favorable weather, point to chickpea acreage increasing 20% to 25% this year, but Roelofs says it will take more than one season to get back to adequate stocks on a global scale. Watch for more pulse crop and transportation predictions for 2023,