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Russia expected to ship fewer peas

The export situation will depend on how the country's crop fares this year.
While pea crops in the Ural and Siberia federal districts look “very good,” there are problems in the southern areas of the country.

SASKATOON — Traders agree that Russia’s pea exports will be down this year, but they differ widely on the magnitude of the drop.

Tareq Awad, a trader with Fruitimpex, is forecasting another good crop exceeding four million tonnes of production.

He told delegates attending a recent Global Pulses Confederation webinar that he anticipates 2.5 million tonnes of exports, down from 3.02 million tonnes last year.

That forecast is at odds with one provided by Ivan Basov, a trader with Top Grain.

He believes Russian farmers will produce 3.75 million tonnes of the pulse crop and will export 1.75 million tonnes.

While crops in the Ural and Siberia federal districts look “very good,” there are problems in the southern areas of the country.

Will Watchorn, a trader with Viterra, said the 2024-25 pea market outlook is going to revolve around which Russian forecast is correct and whether India decides to extend its exemption on pea import duties past the current expiry date of Oct. 31, 2024.

“If it’s Ivan’s number and India extends, then we’re in for an exciting ride,” he said.

Russia stunned the pea market in 2023-24 when it shipped out three million tonnes of the crop, which was nearly triple the previous year’s volume.

“This is really big numbers that we haven’t seen before,” said Basov.

Exports ranged from 1.1 to 1.7 million tonnes over the previous five years.

He said the massive export program stemmed from a big 573,000 tonne carryover from the previous year and a 1.1 million tonne improvement in production to a record 4.7 million tonnes.

That isn’t going to be the case in 2024-25.

“We are coming into this crop without any stocks,” he said.

“There are no stocks left of yellow peas at all.”

And if his numbers are correct, production will be down one million tonnes.

Watchorn said the Volgograd Oblast in southern Russia started the spring with ample topsoil moisture, but by the end of May it was 22 percent below the 15-year average.

It has since recovered, but the rainfall may have come too late to help the crop. The normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI) was six per cent below the 15-year average as of June 16.

“There are clear signs of stress and pressure in southern Russia,” he said.

Awad said he is sticking with his higher production and export numbers because he has spoken to many farmers who agree with those totals.

Basov said pea prices are good compared to wheat prices, so farmers will eventually be willing sellers of the crop.

But for the time being, there is a $10 to $15 per tonne disparity between what farmers are willing to accept and what buyers are willing to pay.

He believes China will take 700,000 tonnes of Russian peas this year.

“Russia and China have become two best friends nowadays,” he said during the GPC webinar.

However, there has not been much interest from that destination so far this year.

“They’re waiting for India to stop buying and then they’re going to come to the market,” Basov said.

India is expected to purchase 200,000 to 250,000 tonnes of Russian peas unless they extend the duty exemption, in which case they will take more.

Watchorn said yellow peas are a competitive substitute for desi chickpeas in India.

“If India does extend (its import duty exemption) it’s going to put the fear of God into a lot of other countries,” he said.

Russia’s hog and poultry sectors consume about one million tonnes of peas annually.

That volume was expected to drop in 2023-24 due to Russia’s $40 to $50 per tonne duty on sunflower meal exports.

The thought was Russia’s livestock sector would switch fully to sunflower meal, which has 35 per cent protein and is cheaper than yellow peas.

But that didn’t happen, and they still purchased big volumes of peas.

Basov was asked whether any Russian peas will go to the European Union now that a new 50 per cent import duty is in place.

“Unfortunately, it’s completely dead,” he said.

Spain was the third biggest buyer of Russian peas in 2023-24, purchasing 400,000 tonnes of the crop, while Italy bought another 100,000 tonnes.

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