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Marketing Types & Uses

Canada is a major exporter of lentil. Most international markets prefer the large Laird, a Chilean type lentil. Eston, a Persian type, makes up about 10 to 15 per cent of Canadian lentil production and fits into markets where a firm cooked seed is important. Alberta produces two major groups of lentil: a Chilean type and a Persian type.

Other niche markets include red-split lentil, zero-tannin lentil and small black (Indian Head) lentil used primarily for green manure plow-down. Lentil can also be used as livestock feed when the product grades lower than Canada No. 3.

  • seed size determines lentil type:
    • Chilean type is larger than the Persian type, with seed size averaging 60-70 grams or higher per 1000 seeds
    • Persian type is small seeded, with seed size averaging 30-40 grams or lower per 1000 seeds
  • seed coat colours range from clear to green, brown, grey, blotched purple or black
  • cotyledon colour varies – yellow, red or green

Production Economics & Marketing

The keys to obtaining the right price for lentil:

  • know your production costs
  • know the markets you are targeting
  • know the quality of lentil you have grown
  • understand different types of contracts study and use market information sources

Costs of Production

Table 44 shows production and break-even techniques that may help producers plan a marketing strategy. Start by calculating a break-even price using average yields and a realistic estimate of production costs. Knowing the break-even price is critical to knowing when to sell and at what price. (Costs can vary from farm to farm, so use figures from your own farm.)

In this example, production costs are for Eston lentil. If lentil yields 1100 pounds/acre, the price required to cover all the costs would be $187.00 divided by 1100 lbs./acre = $.17/lb. or, $187.00 divided by 1500 lbs./acre = $.125/lb. In other words, the break-even price is 12.5 to 17 cents per pound.

Seed input costs can vary depending on seed size. The Bravo 500® treatment can be eliminated if a variety with ascochyta resistance is seeded.

Rotational Benefits

Economic benefits are only part of the reason for growing lentil. Lentil offers rotational benefits as well:

  • decreased need for nitrogen inputs to the following crop
  • decreased costs for herbicides and fungicides in a following crop
  • increased yields of the following crop
  • increased quality of the crop grown the year after lentil (for example, protein premium on wheat)

Market Choices

  • lentil should be grown for a specific market, which should be identified before you buy seed
  • Chilean type lentil, such as Laird, is preferred by international markets
  • Persian type lentil, such as Eston, fits into markets where a firm cooked seed is important

Niche markets include:

  • red-split lentil
  • zero-tannin lentil
  • small black (Indian Head) lentil used primarily for plow down
  • Spanish brown
  • French green
  • seed production

Check all available market information sources and market outlooks for lentil. There are numerous weekly market information newsletters, satellite information sources (DTN, Global Link), Internet websites (STAT Publishing) and radio commentaries.

Global Production & Market Outlook

The world produces 2.5 million metric tonnes of lentil per year. India, Turkey and Canada are the world’s largest producers, but Canada is the largest exporter. Turkey, the U.S. and China are Canada’s biggest competitors in the export market.

Canada’s average lentil production from 1994 to 1998 was 420,000 tonnes per year. About 22 per cent of this production is used domestically for seed, feed and human consumption. Canadian lentil exports averaged 280,000 tonnes per year from 1994 to 1998, with exports widely distributed among 75 countries.

Canadian Exports

  • exports to Europe averaged 60,000 tonnes per year, mostly to Belgium, France, Germany and the Netherlands
  • exports to Mediterranean countries averaged 63,000 tonnes per year, with Spain, Italy and Greece as the major buyers
  • about 92,000 tonnes per year are shipped to South America, with most countries being buyers
  • Mexico, Panama and the U.S. are the major Central and North American importers of Canadian lentils
  • Arab and African countries import 42,000 tonnes per year on average, with the highest volume customers being Algeria, Egypt, Israel and Morocco
  • the Pacific Rim market has averaged 2,600 tonnes per year and is growing
  • Overall, the global market for Canadian lentil is stable and increasing slowly. World supply is the greatest factor affecting farm lentil price changes from year to year.


  • know the quality of the lentil you’ve produced – harvest-time is best for taking samples:
  • take the same number of cross-section samples of the grain as each load is unloaded, to provide a representative sample for each bin
  • store the composite sample for each bin in a clearly marked container
  • submit representative sub-samples to determine grade and to potential buyers
  • grading services are available from grain buying companies or by sending a sample to the Canadian Grain Commission


Lentil samples are considered commercially clean when they have dockage material of up to 0.2 per cent by weight. Samples with dockage material of more than 0.2 per cent by weight are considered not commercially clean and may not be shipped except with the Canadian Grain Commission’s permission.


  • Frost damage: normally indicated by a combination of wrinkling and close adherence of the hull to the endosperm, which is somewhat translucent in appearance
  • Heat damage: limits of heat damaged seeds specified in grade definitions apply to distinctly heated lentil; in samples containing lightly damaged seeds (with tan-coloured meats), if a distinct odour is detected, the seeds are classed as heated; otherwise, they are classed as damaged – samples containing over 1.0 per cent by weight of heated lentil or lentil with a heated or distinct musty odour are graded Lentil, Canada, Account Heated
  • Peeled, split and broken: includes lentil otherwise sound but which is less than three-quarters of whole kernels or has less than one-half of the seed coat intact – lentil with cracked or chipped seed coats is considered sound when the halves are firmly held together and will not form part of the percentage by weight of peeled, split and broken lentil
  • Rime: lentil completely and densely covered with white rime (the adhered lining of the seed pod) is considered damaged in any grade – when rime is sparse enough to expose the soundness of the grain, the sample is classed as sound, and the rime is considered in the general appearance of the sample
  • Sprouted lentil: lentil is considered sprouted when the hull has parted over the area of the germ and sprouting is evident

Foreign Material

  • Stones: hard shale, hard fertilizer pellets, earth pellets that do not crumble under light pressure and other non-toxic materials of similar consistency are considered stones – samples of western lentil containing over-grade tolerance up to and including 2.5 per cent stones by weight are graded Lentil, Rejected (grade), Account Stones; samples containing over 2.5 per cent stones by weight are graded Lentil, Sample Salvage
  • Ergot: this disease results in a fungus growth in place of the kernel – samples containing over 0.05 per cent ergot by weight are graded Lentil, Sample Canada, Account Ergot
  • Sclerotia: are the masses of fungal tissue produced by the soil-borne fungus Sclerotinia sclerotiorum – samples containing over 0.1 per cent sclerotia by weight are graded Lentil, Sample Canada, Account Admixture
  • Other foreign material: includes other domestic grains, weed seeds, earth pellets and material such as pod and stems – samples containing over 1.0 per cent by weight of other foreign material are graded Lentil, Sample Canada, Account Admixture


Samples with any type of unnatural or objectionable odour (other than that of heated or fire burnt kernels) are graded according to the basic quality of the sample, the type and degree of odour and the presence of visible residue causing the odour. Samples with a distinct odour not associated with the grain quality are graded Lentil, Sample Canada, Account Odour. Samples having a heated odour are graded Lentil, Sample Canada, Account Heated. Samples with a fire burnt odour are graded Lentil, Sample Canada, Account Fire Burnt.


Numerical tolerances for “stained” include all distinctly discoloured or mottled lentil. This category includes damaged seeds that are also stained. Lentil with a variable degree of brown discolouration (water spot) that is significant and distinctly identifiable on the seed coat are considered stained.


Color is determined on the basis of the cleaned sample after the removal of stained and damaged lentil:

  • good natural colour: sound and well matured with a good natural colour
  • reasonably good natural colour: moderately immature, lightly earth-tagged or lightly discoloured from storage or other natural causes
  • fair colour: immature but not green, moderately earth-tagged or otherwise moderately discoloured from natural causes
  • poor colour: cannot be considered of fairly good colour but is not severely earth-tagged, immature or severely stained
  • sunburned: the normal discolouration of lentil that occurs during storage – the colour may vary from light tan to brown or very dark brown, depending on the duration and conditions of storage
  • blue-black: the dark blue hull discolouration that is natural on some lentil


One method of selling lentil is through contracting. Contracting a portion of the crop can reduce market risk. There are several types of contracts, each with advantages and disadvantages.

Production Contract

  • guarantees the delivery of some or all production to a buyer
  • may or may not specify the price or total volume accepted
  • some production contracts specify price for a certain volume, with over-deliveries accepted only by mutual agreement between buyer and seller and priced at the market on delivery
  • a date of acceptance for delivery may be specified, and some contracts will implement a storage fee to be paid to the producer after a certain date
  • some seed growers or seed dealers will contract lentil production for seed purposes – while these contracts can be profitable to the grower, consider the extra management required to produce high-quality seed

Deferred Delivery Contract

  • also referred to as a DDC, this contract is an agreement to deliver a specified tonnage of a certain grade of product to the buyer by a certain date in return for a guaranteed price
  • advantages to the producer of a fixed price and delivery opportunity can be considered a disadvantage later on if higher prices are offered by other buyers
  • most deferred delivery contracts include escape clauses to cover production failure due to adverse weather
  • any contract that specifies a grade should also state how grades different from the one specified are handled – if other grades are accepted, the price and terms should be stated in the contract
  • the contract should specify storage charges to be paid by the buyer to the seller, should the buyer delay delivery beyond that stated in the contract

Dealer or Producer Car Contract

  • similar to other deferred delivery contracts except shipping is by producer-loaded railcar
  • the difference between a dealer car and producer car is that the dealer car is allocated to a grain dealer, who in turn offers the railcar to a producer for loading, while the producer car is allocated directly to a producer for loading
  • dealer car loaded product may have a lower price than a producer car since the profit for the dealer is part of the price – however, a dealer car often has a better price than sale of the same product through the elevator system
  • some trade-offs exist between dealer/producers cars and elevator delivery:
  • delivery to the elevator is usually more convenient, involves less administration and can often provide mixing/blending benefits to improve grade
  • deliveries to an elevator can also result in immediate payment, while payment for railcar delivery is made after unload, which can be three or more weeks after the car is loaded

Contract Tips

Read the contract before signing it. This may mean getting an unsigned copy from the buyer, taking it home and taking the time to study it. Remember, contract contents can be amended by mutual agreement, and a section in disagreement can be omitted or amended to suit both parties. Answering the following can help you get the best contract arrangement:

  • Are all charges accounted for?
  • Is the quoted price a net price at the delivery point, or will there be additional freight charges?
  • Is a grade or specification stated? Are other grades deliverable and, if so, at what premium or discount?
  • How is dockage assessed? Is freight to be paid on dockage? Will dockage be paid for and at what price? How are grade and dockage disputes settled?
  • Is a delivery date specified? What happens when one party defaults on delivery date? Will the buyer pay storage charges after a certain date? Will the buyer pay post-delivery interest charges after a certain date?
  • What protection does the seller have in case of payment default by the buyer?

Electronic Marketing

Two electronic markets are available in Alberta, and both are available through the Internet.

Allan Johnston Bid-Ask-Trade

A.J. Bat is a site where buyers and sellers can list what they want to buy and sell.

  • lot size, terms of sale and price are listed
  • there is no charge for buyers or sellers to post a bid or ask – it is between buyer and seller to work out the trucking and payment directly
  • if there is a grading problem, then the Canadian Grain Commission is consulted
  • a yearly subscription gives access to reports and listings

A.J.BATexport Trading Page is where producers, processors and buyers (both locally and internationally) post product for sale or product wanted.

  • all prices are converted to a common point of export, depending on the crop
  • individual companies and processors then work back the price to their point of origin

AgDirect.Com is an electronic marketplace for feed grains where customers can trade in specific regions across Western Canada.

  • has approval of the Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba Securities Commissions to operate as an Exchange
  • allows trading in the spot, forward and basis markets
  • the system was designed by grain traders for grain traders
  • all potential users are closely screened
  • AgraLink handles all payments and has an optional freight exchange service for trucking
  • since there is a higher level of security and services, the fee is higher than with A.J. Bat