Opinion

Firm export demand for Australian pulses as global supplies tighten

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Global pulse supplies have tightened in 2021-22 following the drop in production in Canada, the world’s leading supplier of legumes. However, lower Canadian stocks have created excellent opportunities for Australia, the world’s second-largest legume exporter, whose farmers collected bumper crops of chickpeas and lentils in the current marketing year. In January 2022, Australia shipped 137,977 mt of dried lentils, 170% more than in December 2021, and chickpea export reached 82,328 mt, 12% up compared to December 2021. Despite the opportunity given to Australia, the lack of containers and high freight rates would hinder the active trade process.

2021-22 looks optimistic for the Australian pulses export sector. At the beginning of 2022, it is shown that there has been a high demand for lentils, chickpeas, fava beans, and mung beans amid the legume supply shortage in Canada.

Strong harvests in Australia are helping the country realise its export potential. An increase in production was possible thanks to the acreage extension, given the growing profitability of legumes. Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES) estimates chickpeas production at 1.07 million mt in 2021-22, demonstrating a 45% increase YoY.

Source: ABARES

Other pulses also saw steady increases. Fava bean production reached 582,000 mt in 2021-22, 14% more than in 2022-21. Lentil harvest also exceeded 839,000 mt, up 6% compared to the previous season.

Australian legume exports have also increased over the past year, thanks to higher domestic output and firm demand from South Asia and the Middle East. Australia exported 832,251 mt of dry chickpeas in 2021, double the amount in 2020. Dry lentil shipments totaled 840,229 mt in 2021, up 27% YoY. Fava bean exports jumped to 545,519 mt in 2021, a 28% increase compared with 2020.

The beginning of 2022 also saw firm export demand for Australian pulses. Bangladesh, the biggest consumer of Australian chickpeas and lentils, was building up imports ahead of Ramadan. On top of that, the country’s chickpea production decreased in 2021 amid adverse weather conditions. In January 2022, Bangladesh imported 69,171 mt of chickpeas, up 11% from December 2021. Lentil imports reached 84,696 mt in January 2022, while imports stood at only 1,012 mt in December 2021.

The lack of containers from Australia has made south Asian countries book pulses purchasing way ahead of Ramadan. With a high risk for cargo to come in time, the demand for bulk transportation of Australian pulses has increased dramatically. However, bulk shipments are busier with loading wheat and rapeseed, putting legumes on the second list.

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