Farmers in South Australia and Victoria had little choice but to go for lentils at planting time in May, because lentils, done right, budgeted way off the scale for profitability.
Prices then were in the order of $900-$1000/metric tonne compared with cereals in the $200s, peas in the $300s, faba beans in the $400s and canola in the $500s.
Lentil prices today have slipped to around $700/t.
With husbandry costs not unlike alternative pulse and cereal crops, lentils are still profitable at current levels.
Driving prices higher in recent years was a succession of smaller crops worldwide.
However this year’s lentil crop is now shaping as Australia’s largest ever.
A harvest of over 300,000mt is likely, provided spring and summer conditions are favourable.
Lentils have become an important break crop in cereal rotations, helping to counter disease and weed problems. They like a cool climate finish and are grown mostly in South Australia and Victoria.
Evolution of last year’s price spike had been the result of dashed expectations in crop size worldwide over several years.
In stark contrast the pendulum on many pulse crops this year has swung in favour of much higher output in North America, the sub-continent and eastern Europe as well as in Australia.
They say ‘there’s many a slip twixt cup and lip’, or in other words, ‘don’t count your chickens before they hatch’. Growers still have to get clear of the risk rain inundation and frost before they get this crop in the bin.
The northern hemisphere pulse harvest pretty much dodged the bad weather threat this past few months. Can Australia too?