WITH the Indian harvest a matter of weeks from starting, export interest for Australian chickpeas is finally slowing.
Demand has been unusually strong for January and February shipment, but interest beyond that point has fallen away dramatically as certainty over the Indian harvest increases.
The jury is still out on the final quality and quantity of the Indian crop, but it does seem at this point in the season that production will be up sharply on last season. However, one can never be certain of the reliability of production reports emanating from the sub-continent and the final numbers are still expected to be down on the long-term average.
The slowdown in Indian demand is certainly expected at this time of the year. However, from an Australian viewpoint, the big question is whether India will be back for more imports once their own harvest is complete? I guess only time will tell!
The quality and quantity questions around the Indian crop should be answered by mid-March, when the bigger producing states such as Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, begin harvesting and farmers start marketing their produce.
Recent showers have certainly helped yield prospects, but some of the long-range weather pundits have rain forecast for the second half February, which would be untimely and could certainly have quality ramifications. If this rain is substantial it could also have negative yield implications.
In Australia we have learnt to have a guarded faith in the long-range forecasts, but it will certainly be worth following. Rain (if it happens) in late February may or may not cause serious damage, but it would change the sentiment of the Indian consumer, which is equally important in the Indian market. A change in sentiment could ultimately see Indian demand return for Australian chickpeas in the second half of the year and will undoubtedly set the pricing tone for the Australian new crop.
Elsewhere we are seeing solid (but not spectacular) daily enquiry for Ramadan demand – in particular Bangladesh and Pakistan. While not substantial, these fringe markets are extremely important to the overall export demand equation for Australian chickpeas and keep the domestic packers busy through the Indian harvest period.
Whilst we won’t see the official Bureau of Statistics figures for some time, most within the trade expect that total chickpea exports in the four months to 31 January, 2017, will comfortably exceed 1 million metric tonnes. The majority of this has been sold to Indian importers so arguably it is now the function of the market for the non-Indian importing countries to price at levels, which stops further exports to India or risk the market running into deficit ahead of the next Australian harvest.
Given all of the above it would seem the market has relatively good underlying support around current United States dollar values. Assuming our currency remains unchanged any substantial price movement from here depends on if and when we see India turn buyer again before Australian new crop supplies hit the market.
The next couple of months will certainly set the scene for chickpea demand through to the 2017 harvest. Those growers sitting on unsold inventory will no doubt be anxious for news that will vindicate their decision to hold. Those that have sold will no doubt be busy planning the next crop.
Source: Nidera weekly market report