Toilet paper isn’t the only thing hitting grocery store shelves these days.
Since the coronavirus pandemic took hold, agricultural producers have experienced a bean boom as consumers stock up on dried beans, peas, lentils and chickpeas.
Jeff VanPevenage, president and CEO of Columbia Grain International in Portland, said his company has seen a 40% increase in demand for these products in the past two months, and processing plants are working tirelessly. to respond to an ever-increasing number of orders.
“As the news started to come out, the dried beans and shelf-stable foods were there with toilet paper,” VanPevenage said. “If you started going to grocery stores in early February, you started to see that the toilet paper was gone, but the dried beans and lentils were wiped out, and it continues to be wiped out. “
VanPevenage said he took a personal tour of seven Portland-area grocery stores about a month ago and empty shelves of pulses confirmed his suspicions.
“It’s not just something the general public is looking for,” he said.
At the same time, the demand for pulses started to increase around the world. Buyers started calling US producers, wanting to buy more product and “wanting it shipped immediately,” VanPevenage said.
Transportation, however, has been a problem in some parts of the world, delaying the speed with which products can be shipped.
“I think what has happened, the prices have been relatively cheap over the last couple of years and buyers have gotten used to buying whatever they want with immediate shipping,” VanPevenage said.
“When everyone in the world suddenly needed to restock, the ability (to restock) was gone, just like that. Canadians had worse transportation problems than the United States, and then the (shipping) containers came to rest in China when they were closed. So with the lack of availability of containers to move this product, people could ship in June or July, but not now. “
Shipping capacity in the Pacific Northwest, however, appears to be good at the moment. There were enough containers to bring in from Seattle and Tacoma to load in Lewiston and return to the coast, VanPevenage added.
“It hasn’t been perfect, but mostly OK,” he said. “Unlike Canada (ie) 40 percent need containers.”
The bean boom has resulted in a sharp increase in prices for farmers in the region. VanPevenage said prices for pulses are up about 10-15% from a year ago.
As of Friday, the Pacific Northwest Farmers Cooperative had listed cash offers for chickpeas at $ 18 per 100 weight; $ 15 for small brown lentils and $ 12 for whole green peas.
And although many farmers are almost done with spring planting, VanPevenage said growers were aware of the growing demand for pulses a few weeks ago and had time to adjust their plans to grow more acres, if they wanted to.
“The Palouse is used to sowing a lot of chickpeas, but the whole world has decided to sow chickpeas (recently) so the prices have been lower,” VanPevenage said. “So we are seeing a transition from chickpeas to peas and lentils this year. “
Other agricultural products that have been affected by the coronavirus outbreak include:
Northwest Farm Credit Services recently released an overview of the pandemic’s effect on other agricultural products. The 12-month outlook for cattle suggests variable profitability with strong domestic demand. Dairy products are not as likely to be profitable, according to the study. Much of profitability will depend on the ability of producers to meet demand.
The outlook for the nursery and greenhouse industry remains positive for 2020, with growers reporting large orders and an early start to the spring shipping season.
Wheat producers are looking to break even with the season’s average farm price for all wheat varieties at $ 4.55 per bushel, down 61 cents from a year ago.
Apples, cherries and pears are expected to have slightly profitable yields for growers. Improving export markets are positive for the industry, but domestic demand is sluggish.
The 12-month outlook anticipates slight profits for wineries and vineyards. With overproduction in two of the Northwest’s largest wine regions, grape prices fall and volume sales decline as consumers cut back on alcohol consumption, according to the study.
Twenty-one groups representing agriculture and food businesses recently sent a letter to congressional leaders demanding better support for independent farmers who have been affected by COVID-19. The letter specifically addresses the eligibility of these businesses for the Small Business Administration’s Economic Disaster Lending Program. Among the signatories was the Idaho Organization of Resource Councils.
Hedberg can be contacted at [email protected] or (208) 983-2326.