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Good but Late Start for Indian Rabi Season

Indian farmers are in the process of seeding their next pulse crops, with good monsoon rains and high prices setting the stage for solid production.

India has been at times a major - if erratic - buyer of Canadian peas and lentils over the years, depending on its own production and domestic import policies. For example, India has so far only imported about 6,700 tonnes of Canadian peas in 2021, versus business that routinely topped 1 million tonnes in the previous decade.

India has two major growing seasons, kharif and rabi, with the major pulses grown in the rabi season. Seeding for rabi crops typically begins in November, after the June-September monsoon comes to an end, with the harvest occurring in the spring.

Rains during the 2021 Southwest monsoon came in at just 1% below normal, according to data from the India Meteorological Department. Rains persisted into October, with levels over the past month above average for the time of year. That late rainfall has caused seeding delays but is expected to beneficial for crops in the long run.

As of Nov. 12, farmers in India had seeded 13.6 million acres to pulse crops, which would account for about 38% of average area seeded to pulses, according to a report from India's Department of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare. The planting pace is about 988,000 acres behind what was seeded by this time in 2020.

Of the total, chickpeas (called gram or channa in India) account for the largest acreage base, followed by lentils.

From a profitability perspective, minimum support prices (MSP) are set by the Indian government to provide a base price for growers. In 2021, India has raised the minimum support price for chickpeas by 2.5% on the year, with red lentils up 7.8%.

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