Australian farmers have been left reeling, after India confirmed it would impose a 30 per cent import duty on chickpeas and lentils.
Pulse markets have been sliding in recent months amid speculation that India, the world’s largest pulse importer, was considering an import duty on all chickpea and lentil imports after a bumper local harvest. News of the import tax on chickpeas and lentils comes on the back of a 50 per cent import tax on field peas as well as a 20pc tariff on wheat.
Few have been surprised with the news of the latest tax on pulse imports by India, but this hasn’t made it any easier for farmers. Pulses have been the growth crop of the past five years with farmers gearing up to take advantage of the strong returns following consecutive Indian droughts in 2015/16 and 2016/17.
Chickpea and lentil plantings have doubled since 2013/14 as farmers moved away from the traditional winter crops such as wheat and barley in favour of the more attractive returns with pulses. This surge in pulse plantings was capped off in the 2016/17 season when Australia’s chickpea harvest topped two million tonnes while lentil production topped 800,000 tonnes.
Although chickpea and lentil plantings continued to expand in the 2017/18 season, poor growing conditions through northern Australia has seen production fall away from last year’s record harvest.
Exporter bids for chickpeas are becoming harder to find as traders cautiously navigate the new landscape for trade into India. While there were still a few bids from container exporters into the Darling Downs on Friday, bulk exporter bids were scarce.
It may take some time before the full extent of the Indian import tax on chickpeas is fully understood on trade.
Scorching temperatures through Southern Queensland and northern NSW during the Christmas holiday period is casting doubt over sorghum yields, resulting in a firing in prices.
Darling Downs daytime temperatures have hovered in the low to mid 30’s for the past fortnight while northern NSW have sweltered in the mid 30s to low 40s. Scattered storms across the Darling Downs has offered some relief for farmers. But rains were patchy and a lot of the southern Downs missed the rain.
Summer crops through northern NSW are struggling with stifling daytime temperatures that has blanketed the area since mid-December and the absence of any rain for relief. Sorghum crops conditions are deteriorating with the unrelenting heat and yield expectations are declining.
Moree’s maximum daytime temperature for the first week of January was 38 Celsius which is 4 degrees above average for this time of the year. Scorching temperatures have sapped soils of moisture reserves which has sorghum crops going backwards.
Sorghum prices were $2 higher last week at $261 delivered Darling Downs markets, although this is still $8 down on the mid-December levels.
Scattered storms across Central Queensland in the past week will allow farmers to progress sorghum planting through the Central Highlands.