There is a global shortage of chickpeas

Not a good time to be a hummus fan. Global supplies of chickpeas, the main ingredient in hummus, could fall by up to 20% this year, according to data from the Global Pulse Confederation, Reuters reports.

Bad weather and the war in Ukraine have affected supplies of the protein-rich legume, driving up food prices and creating headaches for food producers.

Chickpeas are used to make hummus, flour, soups, cooked dishes, as well as richly seasoned ones. While it is growing in popularity in the US, chickpeas have long been a key part of the diets of people in India and the Middle East, places that are already struggling to meet rising food import costs.

U.S. farmers – the world’s fourth-largest chickpea exporter – planted fewer chickpeas this year as bad weather severely hampered spring planting and they prioritized more profitable staple crops such as wheat and corn, government data showed. data.

The war in Ukraine is exacerbating the chickpea shortage

Meanwhile, major buyers from South Asia and the Mediterranean are scrambling to snap up dwindling US stocks as supplies shrink globally and as a war between Russia and Ukraine – both chickpea producers – exacerbates disruptions to global supply chains.

“After the war between Russia and Ukraine broke out, demand boomed,” said Jeff Van Pevenage, CEO of Columbia Grain International, a Portland-based grain and legume trader and supplier, adding: “We’ve seen strong demand from China, then there were calls from customers in Pakistan and Bangladesh.”

Ukraine was unable to sow its entire chickpea crop because of the war, leaving it 50,000 tonnes short of what would normally be exported to Europe, said Navneet Singh Chhabra, director of Shree Sheela International, a global chickpea trader, and brokerage firm.

Sanctions aimed at limiting Russia’s access to the global financial system have also hampered purchases of its agricultural products, Chhabra added, as some buyers try to avoid payment complications. A leading exporter of chickpeas, Russia usually accounts for about 25% of world trade.

“Russia exports between 200 and 250 thousand tons a year minimum. After the war started in February, the supply was destroyed,” Chabra points out.

Transportation problems have exacerbated supply constraints and contributed to rising prices, particularly in the US.

Ship congestion in the Pacific Northwest has forced some grain traders to ship containers of chickpeas by rail thousands of miles, using more expensive and circuitous routes to fulfill orders.

Chickpeas are also prone to diseases that can require expensive fungicides (pesticides that control fungal diseases).

The tight supply helped lift US retail prices. Chickpeas in grocery stores nationwide are up 12 percent from last year, nearly 17 percent more expensive than before the pandemic, according to the latest NielsenIQ data. Hummus prices have increased by 6.9% since 2019.

Hummus maker Sabra Dipping Company has enough inventory “to protect against the unexpected,” CEO Joey Bergstein told Reuters. The company has been struggling to deal with production disruptions during a plant upgrade this year in Chesterfield County, Va., which prompted a flood of complaints from customers on Twitter and Facebook about hummus shortages.

Global demand is outpacing supply

Global demand is outpacing supply, according to trade data and research by Shree Sheela International. Turkey has imposed an export ban, while production in Mexico has shrunk due to bad weather.

In Australia, also a leading exporter of chickpeas, farmers have struggled with flooded fields while sellers have sought ways to provide container space on ocean-going cargo ships. Parts of the planted areas are still under water. Australia exports chickpeas mainly to the markets with the highest consumption – India, Bangladesh, and Pakistan.

In the US, the areas planted with chickpeas this year are nearly 5% less, the Department of Agriculture announced. The U.S. market has already struggled with lower supplies after last year’s crop was a third weaker due to a devastating drought from North Dakota to Washington state. In total, domestic deliveries recorded a decrease of 10.5% as of June 1 compared to last year.

Wheat prices hit near-record highs in March but have recently fallen to pre-war levels in Ukraine as fears of a global recession hampered commodity markets. “Wheat will pay the bills. But if you want to buy new equipment or have money to expand, you better have some peas in the mix,” commented a Montana farmer.

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