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India's chickpea import needs to 'stay strong'

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AGT Foods and Ingredients highlighted the potential for sustained pulse exports to India, flagging the boost from a slide in chickpea production which has sent Mumbai chickpea futures soaring 30% so far this year.

Canada-based AGT, one of the world's biggest traders in pulses, said that India's imports of the crops "may remain high in the coming year" thanks to a harvest which has retreated sharply from the record high of 19.8m tonnes set two seasons ago.

"Weak monsoon rains will limit output of Indian pulses crops in 2015-16, likely resulting in a harvest as small as 17.8m tonnes," AGT said.

"Indian chickpea production in particular may fall by as much as 20%, likely resulting in continued strong import volumes," the group added, in comments which come amid a surge in prices of the crop.

Best-traded chickpea, or chana, futures on India's Ncdex exchange touched 4,700 rupees per quintal this week, up 30% so far this year for a nearest-but-one contract, and the highest since October 2012.

In Australia, a major chickpea exporter to India, cash prices have soared Aus$160 to Aus$800 a tonne in a month, according to Queensland-based broker Pentag Nidera.

'Demand-supply gap'

AGT said that Indian demand had fuelled growth in demand from Canada too, with official data showing a rise of 14.6% in shipments on that route last year, "a trend which is expected to continue in 2015".

In the first two months of 2015, Canadian shipments of lentils to all destinations rose by 16.0% year on year in January and February, while those of chickpeas soared by 75%.

While India's government is attempting to boost production of pulses, viewed as an "essential commodity", AGT was cautious over the prospects for filling the void in the country's supplies.

"The demand-supply gap is expected to continue to increase due to insufficient local production and increased demand requirements resulting from population increase," the group said.

"Management is optimistic that import requirements for… India may continue at high levels."

Earnings fall

The comments came as the group unveiled earnings down 94% to Can$546,000 for the January-to-March period, despite a rise of 24% to Can$385.2m in revenues.

However, the factor reflected largely one-off effects, including a Can$8.2m hit from currency market movements.

Underlying ebitda, (earnings before interest, taxation, depreciation and amortisation) rose 32% to Can$22.6m.

"We are continuing to develop our strengths in origination and processing to maximise the opportunities before us globally," said Huseyin Arslan, the AGT chairman.

"We are pleased with how our strategy is being implemented by our management team and feel we will continue to deliver earnings growth for our shareholders as we grow and diversify AGT."


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