The future of red lentils in Canada
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Lentil is the fifth largest grain legume crop in the world after bean, pea, chickpea and fababean. The major producers are India (domestic consumption), Turkey (export) and Canada (export). Most of the lentils produced in India and Turkey are the red cotyledon type which is preferred by people of Indian and near Eastern origin. Accordingly, about 70% of the lentil produced in the world is of the red cotyledon type. In the late 198Os, the Turkish government launched a major subsidy program to replace fallow with red lentil in the winter wheat-fallow rotation in the Anatolian Plateau. As a result, lentil production increased dramatically and Turkey became a major producer and the largest exporter of lentil (mostly red cotyledon types). However, in recent years the subsidy has been reduced or eliminated, resulting in a dramatic reduction in the production and export of red lentil. In addition, a major irrigation project with about 20 major dams was initiated in the early 1990s and this will flood many of the lower areas where yellow cotyledon lentils are grown. This project will not be completed until about 2010, but will result in major increases in the production of cotton and high value fruits and vegetables at the expense of lentil. These factors are causing a shortage and a premium price for red lentil in recent years. Meanwhile, Canada was increasing lentil production and became the leading lentil exporter in 1994 or 1995. However, all of Canada’s lentil production was of the yellow cotyledon type with a pale green seed coat (the “green” lentil in the trade).
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