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Pulse Market Insight #145 APR 10 2017 | Producers | Pulse Market Insights

Acreage Clues from South of the Border

The USDA recently issued its first estimates of 2017 crop acreage, based on farmer surveys. While things can (and will) change between the survey in early March and actual planting, the results with a sample size of 83,300 farmers are fairly solid. Of course, for special crops, the number of farmers responding is the lower, leaving room for more statistical “variance”.

While acreage plans can be different for US and Canadian farmers, there are some possible hints from the USDA’s Prospective Plantings report about Canadian acreage. And as seeded area of US pulses expands, these acres south of the border become more of a market factor in their own right.

Farmers told the USDA they would be cutting back on dry pea plantings by 17%, dropping to 1.14 million acres. That’s the first break in the 6-year rising trend. Farmers in the US tend to plant a larger portion of the crop to greens than in Canada and the small to nonexistent premium for greens likely caused some of this decline. The USDA doesn’t break down pea acreage by type, but a 30% decline for greens is possible with only an 8% decline for yellows.

Forecasts for 2017 Canadian pea plantings are mixed, with some (including us) expecting a small increase while others are suggesting acres will slide a bit. This US acreage estimate suggests it will likely be the latter, although the decline in Canadian plantings won’t likely be as large. In Canada, yellow peas are a much higher percentage of total pea acreage and those relatively better prices will keep farmers here from backing off too far.

Lentil acreage in the US is expected to increase again in 2017 by a reported 13%, pushing total seeded area over the 1.0 million acre mark for the first time. The vast majority of US lentils are greens (mostly mediums) and this year’s exceptional prices have clearly attracted more plantings.

Even though US farmers are planting more lentils, that’s unlikely to be the case in Canada. For one thing, Canadian farmers have had to deal with far more disease issues and that will put a damper on 2017 acres. In addition, red lentils are the dominant type grown in Canada and those prices haven’t been as strong as greens. While green lentil acres could be up in western Canada for 2017, total seeded area of lentils will be lower.

Farmers in the US are planning on a big increase in chickpea acreage. Seeded area is expected to hit almost 500,000 acres, 53% more than last year. A good production year in 2016 together with very strong prices is encouraging a lot more planting. Prices, including new-crop bids, are also attractive in western Canada but last year’s crop performance wasn’t great and seed supplies are harder to find. Canadian plantings will also likely rise in 2017, but not nearly as much as in the US.

Seeded area of US dry beans (excluding chickpeas) is expected to increase only 2% but will still be around average levels. Bids in Canada are a little better than in the US, so seeded area could increase a little more. But because the US crop is much larger, it means North American supplies will be fairly flat and prices could stay relatively steady.

Pulse Market Insight provides market commentary from Chuck Penner of LeftField Commodity Research to help with pulse marketing decisions.