Cropping

Pulse Australia forecasts 23pc drop in big five to 2.28Mt

Grain Central, June 7, 2021

Barlock lupins planted early in the window in WA’s eastern wheatbelt. Photo: Jeremy Bryan

PRODUCTION in the current cropping year from Australia’s five major pulses is forecast at 2.28 million tonnes (Mt), 23 per cent below the 2.96Mt produced last year, according to Pulse Australia (PA).

The figure was released in the industry organisation’s first crop forecast for the current season for chickpeas, faba beans, field peas, lentils and lupins.

In area forecasts, PA estimates chickpeas and field peas are the only two of the five crops which have seen an increase in planted area from last year.

Chickpea area is forecast to rise by 11 per cent to 565,000 hectares, while field pea area is seen as being up 14pc to 238,000ha.

Faba bean area is expected to drop 9pc from last year to 245,000ha, and lentil area is forecast to shed 17pc to 304,000ha.

In Western Australia, a surge in canola plantings is largely behind a 23pc year-on-year drop in its lupin area to 385,000ha, while dry conditions in north-west Victoria and much of South Australia have reduced the national lentil area.

However, the national winter-cropping program has gotten off to a strong start generally, and pulse crops in WA and northern New South Wales have been planted into particularly good soil-moisture levels.

Rain last month in Queensland provided the necessary fillip to get chickpea and faba bean seeding under way after back-to-back seasons where dry conditions limited pulse area.

State Chickpeas Field peas Faba beans Lentils Lupins TOTAL
Qld 313,000 0 15,000 0 0 328,000
NSW 293,000 43,000 107,000 2,000 68,000 512,000
VIC 39,000 81,000 133,000 232,000 34,000 519,000
SA 14,000 114,000 144,000 184,000 59,000 516,000
WA 3,000 32,000 8,000 36,000 327,000 406,000
National  662,000 270,000 407,000 454,000 488,000 2,281,000
Percentage of 2020 tonnage
88pc 92pc 80pc 72pc 63pc  NA

Table 1: Estimated tonnages for Australia’s major pulse crops grown in 2021.

Chickpeas

Good rainfall across most of the chickpea-growing regions in March began replenishing the soil-moisture bank, with up to 200 millimetres falling across widespread areas.

Although April and May experienced average or below-average rainfall, the presence of subsoil moisture provided the confidence to plant chickpeas in a profile that was one to two thirds full.

Confidence was further bolstered by growing market demand outside India, with Bangladesh and especially Pakistan already consuming two-thirds of 2020 production, and markets such as Nepal, the United Arab Emirates and the United Kingdom also growing.

Queensland chickpea area is seen as up 20 per cent on last year at this stage, but conditions are drying out in Central Queensland (CQ), which is in need of some good rain to support crops already in the ground.

However, the planting window is still open in CQ, and there could be some upside to its area if forecast sufficient rain eventuates.

On the back of near-record chickpea crops in New South Wales last year, growers have once again favoured chickpeas over cereals, with area seen as up 10pc. The high cereal-stubble level in NSW is also favouring non-cereal cropping options this season.

NSW growers will need to monitor closely for ascochyta this year in paddocks where heavy chickpea stubble from last season is present.

State 2020 interim final estimates 2021 May estimates
Harvested hectares Tonnes Planted hectares
Tonnes
Central Qld
Southern Qld
97,000
133,000
110,000
165,000
115,000
160,000
132,000
181,000
NSW 220,000 396,000 238,000 293,000
VIC 45,000 68,000 37,000 39,000
SA 8,000 11,000 11,000 14,000
WA 5,000 5,000 4,000 3,000
National total 508,000 755,000 565,000 662,000

Table 2: Estimated 2020 and 2021 chickpea area and production estimates.

Faba beans

Faba bean production last season was exceptional as typical sown area yielded very atypical production, demonstrating the upside in yield capacity with faba beans when moisture is plentiful.  Despite soft and falling prices last year, high yields meant generally strong grower returns on faba beans.

Fortunately, at a time of record production in Australia, Egypt re-entered the market, and was able to purchase much of the 2020 production, minimising the need for storage and possible downgrading of stored beans.

Area has reduced this year by around 10pc, mostly out of South Australia and Queensland, down 18pc and 73pc respectively on last year’s area. The emergence of an aphid-borne virus on faba beans last year has not deterred growers in northern NSW from maintaining a strong presence of faba beans in the rotation, so vigilance will be required by its growers to ensure appropriate management controls.

State 2020 interim final May 2021 estimate
Harvested hectares
Tonnes Planted hectares
Tonnes
Qld 30,000 42,000 8,000 15,000
NSW 55,000 110,000 59,000 107,000
VIC 80,000 160,000 92,000 133,000
SA 95,000 185,000 78,000 144,000
WA 9,000 13,000 8,000 8,000
National Total 269,000 510,000 245,000 407,000

Table 3: Estimated 2020 and 2021 faba bean area and production estimates.

Field peas

Drier conditions in southern NSW and the Victorian Mallee and Wimmera have favoured field peas over other thirstier non-cereal crops like canola, and consequently the field pea area is sen as up in NSW and Victoria. Field peas are unlikely to achieve the yield experienced last year, so only average yields have been applied in this forecast.

Demand for peas domestically for feed will be modest, with sufficient fodder now available, while export demand is also subdued.

State 2020 interim final estimate May 2021 Estimate
Harvested hectares
Tonnes Planted hectares
Tonnes
Qld 0 0 0 0
NSW 34,000 61,000 40,000 43,000
VIC 55,000 83,000 74,000 81,000
SA 85,000 105,000 86,000 114,000
WA 35,000 45,000 38,000 32,000
National Total 209,000 294,000 238,000 270,000

Table 4: Estimated 2020 and 2021 field pea area and production estimates.

Lentils

Despite the very strong lentil price at the time of planting, drier conditions, particularly on South Australia’s Yorke Peninsula, and the switch to canola in areas of sufficient moisture have driven lentil area down to more typical levels. This is particularly so in SA, where the area sown in 2020 was a record. The excellent conditions last year also delivered record or close-to-record yields, with production only eclipsed by the record year of 2016.

Despite some rain in late May, conditions remain dry throughout most of the SA cropping region, with root-zone soil moisture mostly below 20pc of capacity. This has hampered establishment of crops that have germinated, and will likely impact final yield potential.

Australia’s Burea of Meteorology has forecast some reasonable rain in the second half of June for SA lentil-growing areas which, if it eventuates, will be much needed by lentil crops at that time.

The WA lentil industry continues to grow and develop, despite a canola-driven reduction in other pulses in that state this season.

State 2020 interim final May 2021 estimate
Harvested hectares
Tonnes Planted hectares
Tonnes
Qld 0 0 0 0
NSW 7,000 10,000 2,000 2,000
VIC 180,000 306,000 161,000 232,000
SA 170,000 300,000 123,000 184,000
WA 11,000 18,000 18,000 36,000
National Total 368,000 634,000 304,000 454,000

Table 5: Estimated 2020 and 2021 lentil area and production estimates.

Lupins

Lupin area is down significantly this year, driven almost entirely by WA, where an outstanding start to the season and very high canola prices have pushed canola’s share of the rotation to very high levels. Of the lupins that have been planted in WA, the very favourable season-opening conditions have led to good establishment.

Elsewhere, the high yields experienced across the country last year are unlikely to be realised again this year, so average yields have been used in this forecast.

State 2020 interim final May 2021 estimate
Harvested hectares
Tonnes Planted hectares
Tonnes
Qld 0 0 0 0
NSW 68,000 130,000 68,000 68,000
VIC 38,000 44,000 34,000 34,000
SA 45,000 46,000 48,000 59,000
WA 350,000 550,000 235,000 327,000
National Total 501,000 770,000 385,000 488,000

Table 6: Estimated 2020 and 2021 lupin area and production estimates.

Source: Pulse Australia

 

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