Markets

Pulse Update: Bulk shipments sidestep Suez choke

Liz Wells, January 31, 2024

Jake Grellman with chickpeas being accumulated in November at Rain Ag’s Wellcamp site near Toowoomba ahead of export to Bangladesh last month. Photo: Rain Agribusiness

BULK shipments of Australian pulses are continuing at pace, including cargoes of faba beans to Egypt on track to take their normal route via the Suez Canal.

Growers are selling modest amounts of chickpeas, faba beans and lentils to traders and export accumulators in a mostly flat market, with activity expected to pick up from March as they look to sell parcels to finance their new-crop inputs.

Rain in Queensland has lifted production prospects for the mungbean crop now being planted, and prospects for the upcoming winter-crop plant are positive across South and eastern Australia following good rain for most regions since November.

All prices are in Australian dollars unless stated otherwise.

Chickpeas

Chickpea values have dropped $10-$20 per tonne in the past month to reflect a slowdown in accumulation for bulk export ahead of Ramadan.

Also, the upcoming harvest of India’s rabi chickpea crop, and of Pakistan’s crop too, has South Asian buyers considering local supply.

The top-grade CHKP1 is trading at around $820/t delivered port, while CHKPM is changing hands at roughly $750-$760/t.

Australia’s current chickpea crop is estimated by ABARES at 528,000t, and trade sources say carry-in from the previous harvest has mostly been the rain-affected CHKPM.

“Demand has been lacklustre,” Mandala Trading director Umang Bagaria said, adding that most of Australia’s chickpea stocks are in Central Queensland, where most of the current crop was grown.

“Bangladesh bought the majority of their chickpeas to come in January and February, and Pakistan has its own crop coming up in March.

“India is expecting a big crop, so that could send some into other markets.”

India is currently importing yellow peas without quota or tariff until March 21.

“Will that be extended? We don’t know.

“Yellow peas are going to India from Ukraine, from Canada and from Africa.

“They are a cheaper protein source than chickpeas.”

Faba beans

Three bulk vessels carrying faba beans from southern Australia are currently nearing the Red Sea en route to destinations in Egypt, and another has departed Port Adelaide this week.

The risk of Houthi attacks in the Red Sea appear to not be disrupting bulk cargoes, but they have seen a widespread rerouting of container vessels from Asia, some carrying boxes packed in Australia, around the Cape of Good Hope to get to Mediterranean or Atlantic ports.

The faba bean market is described as flat, and is sitting at around $500/t delivered port, roughly $50/t below last month’s levels.

While Egypt is primarily a bulk customer for Australian faba beans and lentils, it also writes some boxed business, which has dwindled due to the Red Sea crisis.

“Container demand to Egypt has taken a hit with much higher rates now that (ships) are going around West Africa,” Agri-Oz Exports managing director Francois Darcas said.

In the domestic market, demand is flat as stockfeed mills soak up available lupins and growers, most of whom have good-quality fabas to sell, hang on to stocks in the hope of hitting spikes driven by Egyptian demand.

Lentils

Prices for lentils delivered to South Australian ports and packers are holding at above $900/t for Nipper and Hallmark types.

The larger Nugget types are in shorter supply and are trading for more like $950/t.

Mr Bagaria said the SA market is stronger than Victoria’s because it is the origin of most of Australia’s bulk lentil cargoes.

“The bulk stem has taken off from COVID days in a very big way, and SA is priced higher than Vic because of the bulk competition.”

Australian growers are still selling lentils on spikes in the market, created mostly when a vessel is loading and accumulation needs to be completed.

Nepal is a regular buyer of Australian lentils as well as chickpeas, and Mr Bagaria said the Nepalese market would also look at Canadian and Indian product if the price was right.

“They’ll definitely go for the Indian crop as long as there is parity, but the quality Australia provides them is superior; it gives them a better yield in processing.”

Mungbeans

Nominal prices for new-crop mungbeans are down $50-$75/t from last month to $1200/t for processing-grade product.

China is once again shaping up as the major market.

Planting of the crop in NSW, mostly on the Liverpool Plains, is finished, and some late area may go in on the Darling Downs of southern Qld following recent rain which is causing flooding in some areas.

Australian Mungbean Association president and Australian Choice Exports managing director James Hunt said the rain has been ideal to set up crops in CQ and in south-west Qld.

“The Darling Downs was a bit patchy to start with but now all the areas have had rain, and it’s getting late for them to plant,” Mr Hunt said.

“If it dries out in time, some more might go in.”

West of the Downs, more area is also expected to go in around St George and Dirranbandi, and CQ is shaping up for a big plant.

“Now is the ideal planting time for CQ.”

Mr Hunt said recent rain is expected to absorb remaining stocks in certified AMA-approved seed.

“I think seed sales have been good prior to this rain, when conditions were patchy.

“Now, I think whatever seed is left out there will be planted.”

Qld rainfall registrations in the week to 9am today include: Clermont 34mm; Dalby 95mm; Felton 77mm; Emerald 74mm; Jondaryan 70mm; Macalister 198mm; Miles 61mm, and Springsure 107mm.

 

 

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