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Chickpea Acreage Up; Prices to Moderate

PULLMAN, Wash. — Last year, thanks in part to new blight-resistant varieties and in part to poor crop conditions in major chickpea-producing countries, Northwest growers of the edible legume harvested record crops and in some cases record prices.

While Northwest chickpea producers should still be able to turn a profit this year, prices will not reach levels experienced last year, according to David Youmans, Washington State University Cooperative Extension trade specialist.

“Mexico is getting ready to export an estimated 130,700 metric tons of chickpeas,” Youmans said. “That’s 45,000 metric tons more than last year.”

“Turkey could further depress prices if it really unloads chickpeas onto the market,” Youmans said, “but we don’t know the size of that crop.”

Turkey plants between 500,000 and a million acres of chickpeas every year said Fred Muehlbauer, who heads the USDA Agricultural Research Service Grain Legume Genetics and Physiology Research Unit, located at WSU.

While most of the crop is consumed internally, Turkey can flood the market if the crop is good, Muehlbauer said.

He has heard that growing conditions in Turkey are better this year than in the past few drought years. “I would expect that Turkey is going to have a very good crop year,” Muehlbauer says. But, he adds, Turkish growers have been forced to plant some fairly poor quality seed because of the droughts. “Whether or not the crop is good (quality), it’s really hard to say.”

Mexico and Turkey are both major producers and exporters of the crop, known as garbanzo beans in the United States. Chickpeas are a staple in diets in Spain, the Middle East, North Africa, Southeast Asia and the Indian Subcontinent.

By comparison, Palouse growers are expected to bring in 16,000 metric tons at the end of summer.

Youmans compiled information on the forthcoming Mexican crop during a trip to Mexico in April. Mexico is one of the world’s major chickpea producing countries.

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