THE STRATOSPHERIC prices on offer over the past two seasons have dissipated in many sectors of the pulse industry, but there is one niche product where growers are still riding the wave of near record prices – and they can thank a simple dip for their luck.
Peter Wilson, chief executive of AGT Foods Australia, said Kabuli chickpea prices continued to sit at high levels, in excess of $1200 a tonne, with a significant premium to the smaller type Desi chickpeas grown primarily in Australia.
Better supply internationally in the more widely grown Desi market has seen prices slip to the still highly acceptable $800/t mark delivered to northern NSW packers, but it is the Kabuli market that remains white-hot.
The heart of Australia’s Kabuli chickpea industry is in the south, through Victoria and South Australia, and growers there upped plantings this season in line with returns in excess of $1600/t last year, although most did not expect prices to hold up.
Mr Wilson said the reason farmers had received a pleasant surprise with prices still well above $1000/t, was the seemingly insatiable demand for hummus made from Kabuli chickpeas.
“Hummus is becoming more and more popular in western countries and the major demand is for the dip made with Kabulis,” Mr Wilson said.
The traditional Middle Eastern dip is riding the crest of a wave in terms of its status in affluent nations, where consumption is soaring, due to its reputation as a healthy, high protein snack food.
Mr Wilson said Australia’s Kabuli producers had been helped by poor harvests in places such as Turkey and Mexico, both large producers of the larger-seeded chickpea.
Speaking at last week’s Southern Pulse Agronomy field day in Rupanyup in Victoria, Mr Wilson said he expected demand to continue for Kabuli lines, but added substitutability meant if prices got too far above the Desi market, end users would look to switch.
However, he said in the short-term, growers would most likely see Kabuli crops be one of their best performers in terms of gross margins this harvest.
“The bulk of the Kabuli crop is planted in southern NSW, Victoria and SA, where the season has been a bit better, so we’d expect farmers to have reasonable yields, for the most part, combined with excellent prices.”