PUFFED chickpeas could provide growers with an alternative selling opportunity which comes as welcome news after prices crashed in early August as a result of the market collapse in Bangladesh and a larger than anticipated crop in India – the two major importers of Australian chickpeas.
Research conducted by Charles Sturt University PhD student Soumi Paul Mukhopadhyay has identified five Australian Desi chickpea genotypes which show puffing potential.
Mrs Paul Mukhopadhyay said puffed chickpeas were a common snack food in India which could open a new avenue for Australian growers.
“If an Australian chickpea puffs to the same extent or better than the Indian cultivars it could be marketed in a way that would achieve price premiums and increase demand, thereby improving the value and export potential of Australian chick peas in general,” she said.
Pentag Nidera pulse trader Rob Brealey said the supply of peas globally had responded to high prices in recent years.
“Pakistan – which is normally the second largest importer – has imported nothing in the past six months,” he said.
Good monsoonal rain in India, combined with their larger crop, has set the country up “reasonably well” for next year’s crop as well, according to Mr Brealey.
A sharp depreciation in the Indian rupee has also driven the cost of imports which has impacted on the Indian consumer’s ability to pay.
This year’s Australian crop is down from about 800,000 tonnes last year to an estimate of 400,000t to 500,000t this year which will “virtually all have to be devoted to export” according to Mr Brealey.
Eased demand has also forced some major buyers to pull out of the market.
“I think those of us that are left in the market will take a much more conservative approach to selling peas offshore as well as carrying peas here in Australia against potential demand.
“All of that means the days of the trade stepping up and buying the crop at harvest time are behind us.”
Prices dropped to below $500 a tonne in August but have continued to lose ground, now selling at $350/t to $400/t this week, according to Mr Brealey.
“At these prices we are starting to see a little bit of engagement from India.”
Prices are similar for growers in Central West NSW with Igrain accounts manager for the region Lena Price estimating prices to be sitting about $400/t.
“There is a substantial amount (of last year’s crop) sitting in storage and growers are looking to warehouse (this year’s crop) rather than sell because of what’s happened in Bangladesh and India.”
If puffed chickpeas could provide a strong new market avenue, Ms Price said it would definitely be something growers would be interested in.
“If there is anything that will increase the market growers will be eager to know more about it.”
Alliance Grain Traders grain buyer David Marshman, who trades in the Wimmera region of Victoria, said the chickpea market had been quiet of late.
“Kabuli chickpeas are the main type here while Desi is the main type in the north – prices (for Kabuli) are sitting about $370 to $380/t.”
While at the most critical time of the chickpea season, Mr Marshman said puffed chickpeas would be a welcome option for growers.
“A new market is always a good thing for growers,” he said. “If there is another use for it and it gets going on a large scale it is good for everybody concerned.”