Pulse weekly outlook: Manitoba may give peas a chance

CNS Canada — Total Canadian pea acres are likely to be down in 2018 as export challenges have cut into prices. However, Manitoba could be an outlier, with increased area to the pulse crop a strong possibility.

“People are interested in growing peas, but there’s caution there,” said Francois Labelle, executive director of Manitoba Pulse and Soybean Growers, pointing to past issues with disease. The provincial agriculture department recently held a producer meeting in Brandon discussing potential for growing peas in Manitoba.

Peas “are a good pulse crop for producers to grow, but there are some challenges along the way,” said Manitoba Agriculture pulse specialist Dennis Lange, echoing the disease issues that will play into how expansion happens.

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Manitoba saw its largest pea acreage in 15 years in 2016, with 163,200 acres seeded to the crop. However, that year was extremely wet, which hurt quality and yields, and acres subsequently dropped back in line with the previous five-year average with only 65,000 in 2017.

The 2017 pea crop benefitted from drier weather, and yields were very good in some areas, said Lange. While there are still plenty of question marks going into the 2018 season, conditions are on the drier side to begin with across much of the province, which could sway some interest toward peas.

The prospect of increased local demand is also drawing more attention to peas in Manitoba.

Roquette, a French-based processing company, is in the midst of building a plant at Portage La Prairie that will have the capacity to process 100,000 tonnes of peas a year. The facility is expected to be operational by the fall of 2019.

Manitoba only grew 80,300 tonnes of peas in 2017-18, according to Statistics Canada data. The company will likely need to bring in peas from Saskatchewan, but will pull as much as possible from closer sources.

“There’s always interest (in growing a crop) when there’s a local market,” said Labelle, telling the story of one Manitoba producer who had liked growing peas in the past, but stopped due to the costs of moving it to buyers in Saskatchewan.

“Our association is hopeful that people will trying some peas this year, just to get them back in the rotation and build understanding on producing (the crop),” said Labelle.

“Having more pea acres will help not only Roquette, but other companies in Manitoba that are also dealing with peas,” Lange said.

Lange didn’t expect a large increase overnight, but rather sustainable growth as peas will still face challenges on wet years in Manitoba.

— Phil Franz-Warkentin writes for Commodity News Service Canada, a Glacier FarmMedia company specializing in grain and commodity market reporting. Follow him at @PhilFW on Twitter.

CORRECTION, April 2: An earlier version of this article stated the Brandon meeting had been organized by MPSG.

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