THE beleaguered Australian chickpea industry is working its way through another setback, albeit on a much smaller scale than the recent introduction of Indian import tariffs.
Pulse Australia chief executive Nick Goddard said Pakistan, which has emerged as Australia’s leading buyer of chickpeas since India implemented its tariffs late last year, was now imposing stricter phytosanitary requirements on Australian product.
“It has not been communicated to us officially but on import permits we are seeing a requirement that the chickpeas be either declared ascochyta free or have an increased treatment with the fumigant methyl bromide,” Mr Goddard said.
He said Australia had no declared ascochyta-free zones so all grain would have to be treated.
Mr Goddard said this would not be particularly difficult given the chickpeas were already being treated with the fumigant prior to export, but it would add additional costs in terms of the time required to treat the product and cost of additional methyl bromide.
“It is not a massive blow but it is going to increase the cost of carry and mean more time for exporters to get their product across,” Mr Goddard said.
He said in spite of not receiving official notification, the Australian Government was working on issuing phytosanitary certificates based on the new standards issued in the import permits.
Mr Goddard said the Australian industry was unclear about the rationale of the Pakistani decision, but he ruled out an attempt to bring prices down further.
“Pakistan is short of chickpeas this year, which has worked well for Australian producers given the Indian situation, so they are not going to be trying to manipulate the situation to bring prices down and risk supply,” Mr Goddard said.
“It could be there has been an outbreak of ascochyta in Pakistan and officials are particularly worried about it - we are seeking clarity on that.”
The next step for Australia, according to Mr Goddard, would be getting official notification of the change in requirements.
“It is a little frustrating when you see these things just through the import permits, we’re hoping to get some official notice and work through it, but we’re fairly confident it is something we will manage to resolve quite comfortably,” he said.
Moving into the winter sowing period, Mr Goddard said he expected pulse plantings to be down across the board.
“The market signals are there loud and clear, especially in chickpeas and lentils, where growers had enjoyed a very strong run over the past few years,” he said.
“We’ll definitely see plantings of those higher value crops come back, which is probably not a bad thing agronomically, as growers were pushing the envelope pretty hard in trying to get as many chickpeas and lentils in as they could when prices were up.”