Black Sea Lentil Market
By Sergey Feofilov, Ukragroconsult, Kiev, Ukraine
The “lentil boom” in Black Sea Region started not so long ago. It is the last two years which witnessed sharp growth of Kazakh farmers’ interest in this crop.
In a mere three years, lentil plantings in Kazakhstan have expanded from 70,000 hectares to 331,500 ha seeded for this year’s harvest. So, in 2016, lentils replaced the traditional peas as the country’s main pulse crop. This happened even though pea acreage too increased.
This year, lentil’s share in pulse plantings reached 73% against 22% seeded to peas. While lentil was actually absent in the Kazakh crop rotation back in 2013, peas traditionally accounted for at least 50% of pulse acreage.
In view of that substantial gain in plantings, Kazakhstan may double its lentil output this season. According to UkrAgroConsult estimates, 2017 lentil production may come to 280-300 thousand metric tons in net weight.
In the last two seasons Kazakhstan managed to export over 70% of its lentil crop. The export share may fall to 60-65% in the current 2017/18 season because of aggravating competition with Russia for end-markets and sales channels, though its aggravation is not so significant.
UkrAgroConsult forecasts Kazakhstan’s 2017/18 lentil export potential at 180-190 thousand metric tons that is on average 75- 80% more than shipped abroad in MY 2016/17 (103.8 KMT).
The first three months of the current season witnessed a steady pace of Kazakh lentil exports. Kazakhstan shipped abroad over 24,500 tons of lentils in September-November 2017/18 against 25,000 tons during the same time last season.
The main destination market for Kazakh lentil is Turkey, and it is the country which stepped up its purchases in the reporting period. Iran, Afghanistan and Azerbaijan also increased lentil imports from Kazakhstan. It is the above lentil destination markets which are expected to provoke aggravated competition between Kazakhstan and Russia this season, as the latter country has also managed to significantly reinforce its position in lentil exports.
So, Russia managed to almost double lentil exports in the 2016/17 season, to 14,600 tons against 7,700 tons shipped abroad in MY 2015/16.
The start of the current 2017/18 season in the Russian lentil market also featured new record highs, both in production and exports. Russia already supplied 44,300 tons of lentils to foreign markets during the five months of the season (July-November 2017), or three times as much as for the whole last season.
It was mostly Kazakhstan’s traditional export markets, i.e. Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan and the European Union, that absorbed Russian lentil supplies.
Although the lentil market in Ukraine is just at the initial stage of development, export shipments of this pulse crop from the country have expanded from a few hundred tons to thousand tons over the year.
Ukraine exported more than 1,500 tons of lentils in the 2016/17 season, or up more than two and a half times from MY 2015/16 (570 tons).
On the one hand, aggravating competition in the market of pulses, including lentil, may curb or slow down further expansion of plantings, including those in Kazakhstan. However, on the other hand, it was the need for crop diversification (i.e. for a reduction of cereal plantings and an increase in those of oilseeds and pulses) that brought lentil to the Kazakh crop rotation. Under these conditions and with support from the government, which is the promoter of the cropping pattern adjustment plan, this may become a longer trend.