Since the pandemic became severe in the US in March 2020, Americans started seeking companionship by adopting pets during the lockdown period. It is estimated that about 10 million new pets were added to North American households during the pandemic which increased the number of households owning pets significantly. About 70% of the households in the U.S. are now pet owners and they need pet food to feed their furry friends. Since many pet food companies use pulses (dried bean, dried pea, lentil, and chickpea) for pet food bases, overall demand for pulses has surged in the U.S.
The surge in demand for pulses took place when the pulse-producing regions of North Dakota and Montana were witnessing severe droughts. The droughts severely impacted the average yield of various pulses, including peas, chickpeas, and lentils, and created a shortage of pulses in the market for consumption purposes. Furthermore, the quality of the harvest was also impacted leaving limited volumes for even processing into pet food as the majority of the manufacturers look for high-quality ingredients. Pulses used by pet food manufacturers are the same level of crop quality as buyers in the human food market which posed a problem due to limited supply in the market. The manufacturers are very particular about the grade and quality markets of the pulses to ensure they do not become an outlet for poor quality.
The growing demand for pulses in the U.S. was bumping up against a limited supply of peas, lentils, and chickpeas started getting reflected in the domestic prices of these pulses. Prices recorded during September 2021 were significantly more than the prices recorded in September 2020. The price for dry bean increased by 26%, the chickpea (all class) price was up by 57%, the lentil price increased by 73%, and the dry pea price was 66% more than the above September 2020 price.
Source: ITC TradeMap. HS Code: 0713 Dried leguminous vegetables, shelled, whether or not skinned or split.
To meet the demand and stabilize the prices, the U.S. relied on imports from its neighbor, Canada. The volume of pulses imported during the first 10 months of 2021, was about 5% more than the five-year average and 37% more than the volume recorded during the same period in 2020. The higher prices in the domestic market of the U.S. and imports from Canada are expected to continue in the upcoming year as droughts have reduced the overall yields and supply of pulses in U.S. supplies. The imports will continue to be driven by the demand for pulses among consumers as well as the pet food manufacturers.