Montana continues to lead the nation in pulse crop production but an ongoing trade war with India has caused market prices for peas, lentils and chickpeas to crash. But Montana pulse growers remain hopeful that recent efforts with India will help secure this important export market again.
India is the world’s largest consumer of pulse crops, contributing to approximately 27 percent of the world’s consumption. And for Montana pulse growers like Jillien Streit from Chester losing this important export market as hurt their bottom line.
“The U.S. market value to India for lentils, dry peas and chickpeas dropped 86 percent from the year 2016-17 to 2018-19,” said Streit. “Our prices have plummeted because of this.”
To help pulse growers, Montana Sen. Steve Daines along with North Dakota’s Kevin Cramer sent a letter to President Trump urging him to address these unfair tariffs on his recent trip to India, which the President did.
“When you have President Trump meeting face to face with Prime Minister Modi, a letter from a U.S. Senator, that is a great place to start,” said Daines. “And what it did of all the issues we have to talk with India, think about there's a long list of national security issues and what's going on that part of the world. What's the president do? He's fighting for Montana pulse crop producers. It's a proud moment. So, we're off to a great start. There's more work to be done but think about what's happened in the last 120 days. China, Canada, Mexico, Japan, all these trade deals. I hope that any of that list here soon.”
Streit said even the slightest move in India means big things for pulse growers here at home.
“So if they start to pull these tariffs off, we will see price relief,” said Streit. “And I know as a pulse grower right now, sitting down doing my fiscal budgets, I'm scared. And I think probably most growers out there are scared. If these prices don't start to move, what our future looks like. But that being said, pulses have always been a very volatile market. And if we pull out now and we change what we're doing, we won't be able to also participate in the upswings.”
Currently, tariff rates are 30 percent for dried beans, 50 percent for lentils and peas and 70 percent for chickpeas. As a result, U.S. pulse crop producers face a significant competitive disadvantage when exporting to India.