THE faltering Pakistan chickpea crop has prompted a Pakistani businessman to visit WA to sure up supplies.
The country's staple legume crop is falling short by several thousand tonnes annually and Majid Abdullah believes WA could help solve the problem.
Affordable freight from WA, plus a comparable climate and quality crops could be the answer to filling some of the shortfall, and Mr Abdullah said the country of 200 million people needed more Australian produce.
"I contacted companies over here before starting the business and only four responded and with rates that were very high," he said.
"I came here with a plan to import flour to supply for naan bread locally and that was very successful.
"But our local (chickpea) crop is not enough, there is a huge potential for the market here because in the past four to five years Pakistan's production of chickpeas, which used to be about 500,000 tonnes, has been about 300,000t.
"I buy locally here, pay you in Aussie dollars, I'm the exporter and I'll export."
Mr Abdullah is encouraging WA growers to increase their chickpea planting, as he believes there is a big market for their product.
Pakistan has a chickpea growing belt in the central northern part of the country bordering on the province of Punjab, which is home to 120m people.
The country's main crop is wheat, with the Pakistani population being one of the highest consumers in the world at 124 kilograms per person per year.
The area planted to wheat is much larger than chickpeas, and about 25mt is produced domestically per year.
Mr Abdullah said it was unlikely the wheat planting size would be reduced to allow more chickpea plantings, with those growing wheat mainly growing it for personal consumption.
He said with wheat and chickpeas growing concurrently the area required for production was not negotiable.
"About 70 per cent of Pakistan's population lives in villages and they grow the wheat and 30pc of the population lives in the cities, they need the wheat to feed themselves," he said.
"The part that is bought by government is to feed the cities and that is all that is marketed."
Mr Abdullah set up the Abdullah Trading Company in Fremantle four years ago and has been focused on chickpea exports for three years.
He started exporting only about 90-100t but more recently has been exporting 500-600t and would take more chickpeas if they were available.
Based in Lahore, the largest city in the Punjab province, Mr Abdullah ships chickpeas through Pakistan's capital port city of Karachi and transports his product up country.
From there he supplies local markets in Punjab but also crosses over into supplying India's Punjab province.
"The black chickpeas we call desi are used in dahl or they grind the whole chickpea for the flour or besan which we use for battering chicken or vegetables," he said.
"In Ramadan it's usage goes up because most of the people make pakoras because they take a long time to digest and they feel fuller for longer and they also make hummus.
"White chickpeas or kabuli are used to make curry, where for morning, lunch and tea people are having it.
"With chickpea curries they can put eggs into it, they can put chicken, beef whatever they want to, it is widely consumed in Pakistan."
Mr Abdullah said given chickpeas were such a staple of the local diet, he is concerned a deficit of 40pc in the country's chickpeas requirement would become an issue.
"Five years ago we had a crop of 500,000t and now we have 300,000t because the weather has not been good and there's no irrigation," he said.
"This is the second consecutive year in the harvesting season, which is March and April in Pakistan, it has started raining and the crop was ruined."
Mr Abdullah said prices of chickpeas in Pakistan had already started to rise as the market reacted to the rain and crop forecast.
"When I left Pakistan a few days ago (in late April) I spoke to a lot of growers and buyers and we assume that the crop is 65pc less," he said.
"In early March the wholesale price was 82 cents per kilogram and when I left it was $1.25/kg, so you can see what has happened in just 1.5 months.
"Usually the prices go down when the crops come in, but we've had about an 80pc price rise."
Chickpeas sourced from Australia are sized by the millimetre and the smaller chickpeas below 5mm are the most sought after, as they are used in dahl.
The 5-9mm chickpeas are second preference.
Mr Abdullah said while imported chickpeas were purchased secondary to local produce, this year the attitude would be changing.
He is working with Perth-based commercial agent Tim Byass, Woolzstar, to buy chickpeas on farm to clean on site before packing them into shipping containers for export from Fremantle.
Mr Byass also works with lupin production company Irwin Valley Milling and is driving development of lupins for the Chinese market.
Mr Byass said the new approach to exporting WA chickpeas would give growers a streamlined process and provide certainty as they would be paid up front and all logistics would be managed for the grower.