SPOT DEMAND for Australian pulses has fallen away, allowing the market to drop by up to $100 per tonne in the past month, but deferred demand is supporting values for mungbeans now being planted in Queensland following widespread rain.
Harvest of the rabi (winter) crop has now started in India’s southernmost growing areas, and will gather pace as it moves north over the next six to eight weeks into Pakistan and India’s main pulse-producing areas.
This has turned the sub-continent market’s interest to its own chickpea and lentil crops and away from imports.
Also, the Gulfood conference in Dubai this week is occupying traders involved in the global cash market.
Australian pulse packers are yet to be impacted by a shortage of containers which are stockpiling at some ports in China, where activity has slowed or stopped as a result of work restrictions in response to COVID-19 (formerly coronavirus).
Trade sources said the limited amount of containers being packed with pulses at present was mitigating any impact from the COVID-19 response.
ADM pulse trading manager Rob Brealey said minimal interest from export customers, coupled with limited supply available in Australia, had made the market “very illiquid.”
“Bangladesh, which has been the main buyer lately, seems to have bought enough.
“India’s and Pakistan’s own crops are progressing well, and prices are falling to the point where they’re challenging Australia as suppliers to other destinations.”
The nominal market for desi chickpeas harvested last year and delivered to packers on the Darling Downs of southern Queensland is $810-$850/t.
This is down around $80-$100/t from the market peak seen in early to mid-January, when strong prices cleaned out grower stocks of current-crop and old-crop chickpeas.
“It’s always difficult to know when the bin’s empty, but it feels like there’s not much left now.
“The bid-offer spread has become very wide with the international market falling.”
Recent rain in northern New South Wales and central and southern Queensland — Australia’s main desi chickpea-growing areas — is setting up widespread planting of winter crop.
Growers are expected to opt for as much wheat and barley as their cropping rotations allow, and limited chickpea area.
This is because price prospects for cereals remain brighter than those for chickpeas, and chickpea stubble offers much less protection for soil from heat, wind and storm rain than wheat and barley stubble.
Pulse traders see limited upside to chickpea prices in the short to medium term.
“We need to take into consideration that India and Pakistan appear to have good crops, and are less likely to be buyers next year.”
A 10,500t cargo due to load in Mackay later this month bound for Bangladesh looks set to wind up current-crop bulk exports of chickpeas.
The lentil market is in the doldrums following a recent price spike and correction.
Trade sources say bids and offers are around $30/t apart. Farmers are selling only small parcels, and few of them, to the trade.
The smaller Nipper lentil variety as preferred by Bangladesh is being offered at roughly $730/t delivered Melbourne packer, while the larger Jumbo and Nugget lentils are bid $680/t and offered $710/t.
Farmers are believed to have sold around two-thirds of their lentils, and will wait for further price spikes to offload the rest.
Teague Australia Adelaide-based broker principal Tim Teague said the market for faba beans had also eased considerably in recent weeks, and the southern market had gone quiet.
Faba beans are now offered at $720-$730/t DCT (delivered container terminal) and bid at more like $700/t.
“Faba prices would be back $100 or more on where they were,” Mr Teague said.
“Egypt has goods arriving now, and the market’s taking a breath.”
The latest cargo of faba beans loaded in Victoria last month, and is due to arrive in Suez next week.
A further two part-cargoes are scheduled to load in South Australia in coming weeks.
“Everyone is hopeful the Egyptians will need to buy some more before the northern hemisphere crop comes out. “
Prices for mungbeans have jumped by up to $100/t in recent weeks as exporters look to book new-crop tonnage for May-June.
The market for mungbeans on a clean seed basis and delivered to Darling Downs packer is sitting at around $1400/t for No. 1 grade, $1300/t for processing and $1200/t for manufacturing.
Australian Choice Exports Brisbane-based managing director and Australian Mungbean Association vice president James Hunt said the market for July onwards could be softer, but demand from Asia looked buoyant for the opening of the new-crop window.
“Interest from Southeast Asia and not just China is driving the market up.
“It’s gone up a lot, and it’s probably at its peak.”
Mungbeans in major growing areas of Queensland are ideally planted in January and February, and recent rain has a big planting program under way.
“People want to buy them, and there aren’t a lot of sellers.
“With the sun coming out and plenty of moisture in the ground, there’ll be more grower engagement soon,
“There’s a lot been planted late January on the Downs, in the next couple of weeks, it’ll be a good time for them to sell a bit.
“People will be keen to buy for May-June until their books fill up.”
Mungbeans in central Queensland are still being planted, which makes the national crop area difficult to quantify.
Early estimates say the crop is expected to be greater than the 40,000 hectares harvested last year, and as high as 60,000ha.
In most parts of northern NSW, cool autumns make mungbeans a poor choice for February planting, and NSW is therefore not expected to have a big crop this year.
The average size of the national mungbean planting is around 100,000ha, but harvested area last year was only around 40,000ha due to drought.
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