Western Australian pulse industry

Page last updated: Monday, 13 May 2019 - 10:57am

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Pulses are a minor part of the cropping system in Western Australia accounting for about 1% of the total value of all broadacre grain production. The major pulses grown in WA are field pea, faba bean and chickpea with smaller amounts of lentils also grown in some seasons. The Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) supports the WA pulse industry through disease management and agronomy research and through supporting variety development work carried out through Pulse Breeding Australia.

Production

Pulse production in Western Australia is small compared to other broadacre crops being grown on 30 000-40 000 hectares, producing 50 000-70 000 tonnes and delivering about $20-30 million to the State economy.

Western Australian Crop Production
Percentage of crop production in Western Australia - ten year average

Pulse crops tend to be grown in the medium to low rainfall (350–250 millimetres) environments with chickpea sown at the start of the growing season in May and field peas towards the end of the planting season in June.

Production of Western Australian pulse crops (tonnes)
Crop 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017
Field peas 62 000 32 000 25 000 25 000 31 000 42 000
Faba beans 6000 9000 7000 6000 11 000 4000
Chickpeas 4000 6000 4000 3000 7000 8000

Field pea

Field pea accounts for the majority of WA pulse production with annual production ranging from 20 000-60 000 tonnes most of which is grown in the southern wheatbelt.

Kaspa type dun peas are the main field pea grown in WA. They are characterised by a round seed with small dimples, and generally a pale greenish-brown (dun) seed coat colour with yellow cotyledons.

Chickpea

WA's chickpea industry grew rapidly from the mid-1990s and rose to be a significant 70 000 hectare grain legume crop until the arrival of the fungal disease ascochyta blight in 1999 devastated the industry. Currently production is less than 10 000 tonnes.

In WA, chickpea are mainly grown in the northern and eastern parts of the cropping region, although a small industry also exists for specialty large seeded kabuli chickpea grown under irrigation in the Ord River irrigation area.

New higher yielding varieties with improved resistance to ascochyta blight have now been developed and may help to stimulate chickpea plantings in WA.

Markets

The Indian Government's introduction of pulse tariffs late in 2017 and subsequent increase in 2018 have changed the destinations for WA pulses.

Field pea exports generate $10-$20 million to the State economy each year with the majority exported for human consumption. China has emerged as our major market in 2017 followed by the Philippines, Bangladesh and Malaysia. Locally, they are used mainly in pig and poultry rations as a source of protein and energy.

Chickpeas also have ready export markets in the Indian sub-continent as demonstrated in 2015 when close to 1 million tonnes of desi chickpeas were exported to the Indian sub-continent from the eastern seaboard of Australia. Following the tariff increases, Bangladesh has become the major market for WA.

The market for faba bean is more limited than other food pulses and is largely restricted to the Middle East, principally Egypt.

Contact information

Authors

Janet Paterson
Ian Wilkinson