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Briefing No. 61 November 2005-Revised

Lentils Vincent H. Smith and Jason Jimmerson

Agricultural Marketing Policy Center Linfield Hall P.O. Box 172920 Montana State University Bozeman, MT 59717-2920 Tel: (406) 994-3511 Fax: (406) 994-4838 email: [email protected] website:

Background Lentils, Lens culinaris Medik, are a cool season annual grain legume or "pulse crop" that is considered a cousin of the bean. The Latin word Lens for lentil is also descriptive in that lentil seed is shaped like a lens. Lentils are legumes that convert nitrogen from the atmosphere into nitrogen nodules on the plant roots. Areas with limited rainfall and drier growing season conditions prove to be the most suitable for lentil production. Lentils were first grown more than 8,500 years ago in the Near East. Production later spread to the Mediterranean area, Asia, Europe, and finally the Western Hemisphere. Lentils were probably introduced into the United States in the early 1900s. They have been grown in the western United States and western Canada since the 1930s,

mainly planted in rotation with wheat. Two basic types of lentils are grown worldwide: Chilean and Persian. Chilean lentil varieties are considered by importers and consumers to be of higher quality than the Persian lentil. Chilean varieties are the most widely grown, have extra large seeds, and some varieties have resistance to disease. Persian varieties typically have smaller seeds, mature earlier, and have shorter plants than Chilean varieties. Chilean and Persian varieties can both be grown in the United States. Lentil seeds in North America are typically larger than those from India and the Near East, and seed colors may be tan, brown, or black.

Contact: Vincent H. Smith (406) 994-5615 [email protected]

The Agricultural Marketing Policy Center would like to acknowledge the support provided by Fort Peck Community College and the Montana Department of Agriculture for this project. This publication is a product of a collaborative research project between Fort Peck Community College and the Agricultural Marketing Policy Center.

Figure 1: Percentage of World Lentil Production by Country: 2004 Others

Syria 3% Iran 3% Bangladesh 3% 5% India 30%

China 4%

Australia 3%

Nepal 4% United States 5% Turkey 15% Canada 25%

Table 1: World Lentil Production, Historical Year 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 Production in Metric Tons 2,770,230 2,797,867 2,855,479 2,768,089 2,751,809 2,789,480 2,890,654 3,372,226 3,249,845 2,909,709 3,104,186 3,822,262

Table 2: United States Lentil Production, Acreage and Production Year Acreage Production Planted Harvested Yield (lbs)/ Total (000) (000) (000) acre cwt. 145 143 1,403 2,006 180 178 1,043 1,856 169 163 1,364 2,224 147 140 952 1,333 193 183 1,315 2,406 162 159 1,223 1,938 181 175 1,359 2,371 217 214 1,415 3,029 201 197 1,471 2,898 226 215 1,196 2,571 246 237 1,030 2,442 345 329 1,271 4,182 Metric Tons 90,992 84,188 100,880 60,465 109,135 87,907 107,548 137,395 131,452 116,620 110,768 189,694

1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004

Lentil seeds vary from two to seven millimeters in diameter and range from 15,600 to 100,000 seeds per pound. Production World 1: In 2004, world lentil production was over 3.8 million metric tons. Lentils are produced in over 50 different countries. India, Canada and Turkey typically combine to produce about 70 percent of total world lentil production (Figure 1). World lentil production has been relatively stable over the last twelve years (Table 1). Global lentil production recently peaked at 3.8 million metric tons in 2004. United States: The United States accounted for about five percent of

world lentil production in 2004. In the United States, the total acreage planted to lentils has increased over the past twelve years. The area planted to lentils in the United States increased from 145,000 acres in 1993 to a record 345,000 acres in 2004 (Table 2). Although area planted to lentils in the United States has increased, total lentil production has varied considerably due to yields influenced by season-to-season differences in production conditions. Production of lentils in the U.S. reached a record high of 189,694 metric tons in 2004. Montana: Montana had typically been a minor producer of lentils, accounting for about six to nine percent of total United States production from 1998 to 2003. However, lentil production in Montana recently peaked at 45,723

metric tons in 2004, a substantial increase of almost four times the production total in 2003 (Table 3). Montana's share of total United States lentil production was about 10 percent in 1998, but increased to almost 25 percent in 2004 (Figure 2). Domestic Competition: In addition to producers in other countries, producers of lentils in Montana must compete with other states for the United States lentil market. U.S. lentil production is concentrated among four states.


Data on world production of lentils were obtained from the FAOSTAT database of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, which is compiled on a calendar year-basis. Marketing year and crop year information may yield somewhat different numerical results.

Table 3: Montana Lentil Production, Historical Production

% of US Production

Figure 2: Montana's Share of United States Total Lentil Production

25.00% 20.00% 15.00% 10.00% 5.00% 0.00%

19 98 19 99 20 00 20 01 20 02 20 03 20 04


1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004

Acreage Production Planted Harvested Yield (lbs.) Total (000) Metric (000) (000) acre cwt. Tons 20 19 10 190 8,618 18 16 12 192 8,709 22 21 10 210 9,526 22 20 11 220 9,979 25 22 7.5 165 7,484 30 26 10.5 273 12,383 78 72 14 1,008 45,723



Figure 3: Percent of United States Lentil Planted Acreage by State: 2004

Idaho 21% North Dakota 28%

Figure 4: Percent of United States Lentil Production by State: 2004

Idaho 18% North Dakota 31%

Montana 23%

Washington 28%

Montana 24%

Washington 27%

Washington and North Dakota plant the largest proportions of lentil acreage at 28 percent each, but Montana and Idaho plant nearly as much with 23 and 21 percent of United States acreage respectively (Figure 3). North Dakota and Washington led 2004 United States lentil production with 31 and 27 percent of total production, respectively. Montana produced 24 percent and Idaho 18 percent of U.S. lentil output in 2004 (Figure 4). Consumption Lentils are known as a protein/ calorie crop with protein content ranging from 22 to 35 percent. The nutritional value of lentils is somewhat low because lentils are deficient in two amino acids; methionine and cystine. However,

in comparison with other legumes, lentils contain higher amounts of protein, carbohydrates, and calories. Folic acid is one important nutrient found in lentils. Lentils are often eaten as a product called "dhal," which is a split and dehulled seed used as a main dish, side dish, or in salads. Lentil seeds can also be fried or seasoned, and lentil flours are used to make soups, stews, purees, and mixed with cereals to make bread, cakes, and food for infants. Husks, dried leaves, stems, fruit walls, and residues not used for human consumption can be used as a high protein livestock feed with few digestive inhibitors. Lentils can also be used as a green manure crop, and certain varieties return a large amount of nitrogen back to the soil.

Imports In recent years, about 26 percent of world lentil production has been traded internationally. Approximately 985,000 metric tons of the world's production was exported in 2003. In the 2003 crop year, the three largest importing countries were Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Egypt (Table 4). Collectively, these three countries account for around 26 percent of world lentil imports. Imports of lentils are spread among many different countries. The United States is a very minor importer of lentils, with about a one percent share of total world imports and ranking 18th in world lentil imports (Figure 5).

Table 4: Major World Lentil Importing Countries, 2003 Country Bangladesh Pakistan Egypt Algeria Columbia Sri Lanka Spain India France Italy United States Others World Total World Rank Metric Tons 1 122,785 2 80,769 3 61,177 4 60,288 5 52,968 6 50,494 7 47,023 8 37,949 9 37,949 10 30,877 18 13,196 475,625 1,051,742

Table 5: Major World Lentil Exporting Countries, 2003 Country Canada Turkey United States Australia India China Syria Nepal Belgium Iran Others World Total World Rank Metric Tons 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 370,198 206,918 97,198 84,595 83,053 32,872 32,185 12,658 7,899 5,873 41,612 985,061

Figure 5: Percent of World Lentil Imports by Country: 2003

Bangladesh 11% Others 44% Pakistan 8%

Figure 6: Percent of World Lentil Exports by Country: 2003

Syria 3% China 3% India 8% Australia 9% United States 10% Turkey 22% Nepal Belgium 1% 1% Iran 1% Others 4% Canada 38%

Egypt 6% Algeria 6% Colombia 5% Sri Lanka 5%

United States 1% Italy 3% France 3% India 4%

Spain 4%

Exports The United States exported 97,198 metric tons of lentils in 2003 (including food aid shipments), accounting for approximately 51 percent of total United States production and 10 percent of world exports (Table 5). Canada is the world's leading exporter of lentils. Canada, Australia, and the United States accounted for approximately 70 percent of world lentil exports in 2003 (Figure 6). Summary World production of lentils has approached nearly four million metric tons in recent years. About 26 percent of world production is traded on international markets. The United States accounts for about five percent of world lentil production and about 10 percent of world exports. Lentil imports into the United States are minimal. In recent years, Montana produced nearly 25 percent of total U.S. output. In the 2004 crop year, production of lentils was nearly

four times the previous record high at approximately 45,723 metric tons. References

1. "Crop Profile for Lentil in Montana," USDA Crop Profiles, North Carolina State University NSF Center for Integrated Pest Management, August 1999, Internet Accessed 7/28/03:http:// docs/Mtlentil.html McNew, Kevin and Bixler, Sam, "Lentils: Production, Uses, and Exports," Agricultural Marketing Policy Center, Briefing Number 20, November 2001 "Montana Lentil Production Statistics-Historical Data," National Agricultural Statistics Service of the USDA, Internet Accessed 7/28/03: mt/ Muehlbauer, F.J. and Tullu, Abebe, "Lens culinaris Medik." NewCROP FactSHEET,1997, Purdue University Center for New Crops & Plant Products, Internet Accessed 7/28/03: http://www.hort.purdue. edu/newcrop/cropfactsheets/ lentil.html


Oplinger, E.S. et. Al, "Lentil," Alternative Field Crops Manual, University of Wisconsin and University of Minnesota Extension, Internet Accessed 7/28/03: http://www.hort. lentil.html "Pea, Chickpea, and Lentil Nutrition and Preparation Information," USA Dry Pea and Lentil Council, Internet Accessed 7/28/03: "United States Lentil Production Statistics-Historical Data," National Agricultural Statistics Service of the USDA, Internet Accessed 7/28/03: http:// report.htm "World Lentil Production and Import/Export Data," FAOSTAT Database, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Internet Accessed 7/21/03: default.htm







The programs of the MSU Extension Service are available to all people regardless of race, color, national origin, gender, religion, age, disability, political beliefs, sexual orientation, and marital or family status. Issued in furtherance of cooperative extension work in agriculture and home economics, acts of May 8 and June 30, 1914, in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Dr. Douglas Steele, Vice Provost and Director, Extension Service, Montana State



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