Chickpea prices have crashed at the peak of this year’s harvest to less than $700 per tonne following uncertainty over huge import tariffs imposed by the Indian government on peas.
Broker Josh Brown from AgVantage Commodities, Narrabri, said the price drop was another blow to growers who have struggled to harvest chickpeas after a difficult season.
He said chickpea prices were really strong earlier in the year at around $1100 per tonne and growers who had stored last season’s crop were able to take advantage.
More recently, as the new crop began to come in around mid October, prices were still hovering around the $840/t mark.
“But about three weeks ago, the Indian Government brought in a 50 per cent tariff on field peas and yellow peas being imported from Australia,” Mr Brown said.
“It has come with some vagueness and a certain degree of speculation that the tariff would be extended to cover chickpeas as well – it’s really thrown a metaphorical spanner in the works.”
At this stage, there is no confirmation the tariff will include chickpeas.
“There’s nothing concrete but the uncertainty and speculation has definitely triggered this market drop,” Mr Brown said.
“Everyone’s taken more of a wait and see approach about buying chickpeas rather than investing grain and/or money and falling short.
“There’s no incentive to buy as the market has been so volatile.”
For delivery into Narrabri, chickpeas were being bid between $680 and $690 per tonne last week and just over the $700 mark around the Darling Downs for December delivery.
Mr Brown expects that as many growers as possible will store on farm or warehouse their chickpeas in a bid to get better prices .
He said growers often had anywhere between 100-200t of on-farm storage, up to tens of thousands of tonnes.
“Even $1 or $2 per tonne makes a big difference to profitability, especially on the larger parcels,” Mr Brown said.
Growers who have struggled to harvest chickpeas after a difficult season, plagued by drought, frost and then storms and rain at harvest.
“What we’ve seen from this year’s crop is low yields accompanied by poor quality in which have really caused havoc and disappointment when compared to the season faced last year” Mr Brown said.
“Traditionally when estimating yields there would be two to three peas in each pod, though with the harsh weather most crops faced during the critical development stages earlier in the season the growth was effected and growers were only seeing singles, if any with some growers yields lowered 30 per cent on last year.”