It’s a terrible time to be a hummus fan.
The global supply of chickpeas, the main ingredient, could fall by up to 20% this year, according to data from the Global Pulse Confederation.
Weather and war have hurt supplies of protein-rich beans, driving up food prices and creating headaches for food manufacturers and heartaches for hummus lovers.
The popular snack could disappear from shelves as weather, war and shipping issues have combined to halt global chickpea production (Shutterstock)
The war in Ukraine is playing a major role in the potential shortage of the much-loved snack. Since Russia invaded Ukraine in February this year, the conflict has disrupted normal chickpea production on both sides, as both countries are major exporters.
Ukraine was unable to plant its entire chickpea crop due to the war, withdrawing 50,000 tons normally destined for Europe, said Navneet Singh Chhabra, director of Shree Sheela International, a global trading and brokerage of chickpeas.
Sanctions aimed at reducing Russia’s access to the global financial system have also hampered purchases of its agricultural products, he said, as some buyers seek to avoid payment complications. The top chickpea exporter, Russia normally accounts for around 25% of global trade, he said.
“Russia exports about 200,000 to 250,000 tons, minimum, a year. When the war started in February, the supply was totally destroyed,” said Jeff Van Pevenage, managing director of Columbia Grain International, merchandiser and supplier. of grains and pulses, headquartered in Portland, Oregon.
“When the Russian-Ukrainian war broke out, demand exploded. “We saw strong demand from China, then it was calls from customers in Pakistan and Bangladesh.”
There has been a huge increase in demand for chickpeas in recent years as their popularity is only increasing, especially in places like the US (Shutterstock)
Chickpeas are made into hummus, flour, soups, stews and curries. As they grow in popularity in the United States, they have long been key to the diets of people in India and the Middle East – places that are already struggling to cover rising food import costs. .
Farmers in the United States – the fourth-largest chickpea exporter – have planted fewer chickpeas this year as bad weather bogged down spring planting and they have prioritized more lucrative staple crops like wheat and corn, according to government data.
Meanwhile, major buyers in South Asia and the Mediterranean are trying to recoup dwindling U.S. stocks as global supplies dwindle and war between Russia and Ukraine – both chickpea producers – exacerbates disruptions to global supply chains.
Chickpeas can be used in all kinds of dishes, including vegetarian and vegan dishes as a source of protein (Getty Images)
Transportation issues have exacerbated supply constraints and added to rising prices, particularly in the United States.
Ocean ship backlogs in the Pacific Northwest have forced some grain merchants to ship containers of chickpeas by railcar thousands of miles, using costlier and more circuitous routes to fulfill orders.
Columbia Grain International typically exports some of its chickpeas by ocean vessel through the Pacific Northwest. But with West Coast ports in lockdown, Columbia Grain began shipping chickpeas by rail last fall to Houston, Texas, in search of available sealift — nearly doubling shipping costs. expedition, said Van Pevenage.
As overcrowded train lines have also backed off, these chickpeas have arrived in port long after the ships have departed.
“We had product in Houston for eight weeks, waiting for an outbound ship,” Van Pevenage said.
Columbia Grain is now considering shipping to Charleston, South Carolina, Van Pevenage said.
Last year, North Dakota farmer Kim Saueressig decided not to plant chickpeas in his drought-scorched fields. Known as grain legumes or harvested grain legumes for their protein-rich seeds, chickpeas are also prone to diseases that can require expensive fungicides, he said.
“Prices are still quite good, but it’s a headache trying to manage them,” Saueressig said.
Hummus is eaten around the world, particularly in the Middle East, so a global shortage of chickpeas could impact the diets of millions as the ingredient is used in thousands of dishes (GettyImages)
Tighter supply helped push up retail prices in the United States. Chickpeas on U.S. grocery store shelves jumped 12% from a year ago, nearly 17% more than before the pandemic, according to the most recent data from NielsenIQ. Hummus prices have increased by 6.9% since 2019.
Hummus maker Sabra Dipping Company keeps enough supplies on hand “to insure against the unexpected”, chief executive Joey Bergstein told Reuters.
The company faced production disruptions during a plant upgrade this year in Chesterfield County, Va., where customers sent a barrage of complaints to Twitter and Facebook about the shortages of hummus.
Global demand exceeds supply, according to trade data and research from Shree Sheela International. Turkey issued an export ban, while yields in Mexico declined due to inclement weather.
In Australia, a major chickpea exporter, farmers faced flooded fields as vendors scrambled to secure container space on sea freight vessels.
Some farmers might replant, said Ole Houe, director of agricultural brokerage advisory services IKON Commodities in Sydney.
“Parts of the planted area are still under water,” said Houe, who noted that Australia exports chickpeas mainly to major consumer markets of India, Bangladesh and Pakistan.
In the United States, farmers have planted nearly 5% fewer acres of chickpeas this year, the Department of Agriculture reported.
The price of chickpeas on U.S. grocery store shelves jumped 12% from a year ago, nearly 17% more than before the pandemic (Shutterstock)
The U.S. market was already struggling with smaller stocks after last year’s production was cut by a third due to devastating drought from North Dakota to Washington state. Total domestic supply is down 10.5% as of June 1, from a year earlier, according to USDA data.
Still, Montana farmer Ryan Bogar is betting the shortage could pay off for the 1,500 acres of chickpeas his family planted this spring. Chickpeas need less fertilizer than corn, he said, and can sell for twice as much as wheat, he said.
Wheat prices hit a near-record high in March but have recently fallen to pre-war levels in Ukraine as fears of a global recession hamper commodity markets.
“Wheat will pay the bills. But if you want to buy new equipment or have money to expand, you better have peas in the mix,” Bogar said.