The chickpea plant, Cicer arietinum, grows to between 40-60cm high, with small feathery leaves on either side of the stem. Depending on the type of chickpea, flowers are either white (Kabuli) or purple (Desi). Seedpods can contain one, two or three peas.
Chickpeas have been grown in Australia as a commercial winter crop since the 1980s and production is mostly exported. Prices vary, reaching AU$1,108 per tonne in 2016 (which is high) while AU$350 to AU$500 per tonne delivered to port is cited as a more realistic price (Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences). Queensland and New South Wales are the major regions for chickpea production, dominated by the desi chickpea type. However chickpeas are also grown in Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia.
As a legume, chickpeas are good at fixing nitrogen in the soil making them an excellent alternate crop in a cereal-based farming system. They also provide a useful break crop for control of diseases, pests and weeds. The combination of higher soil nitrogen and reduced root diseases can provide a significant boost to subsequent cereal yields.
Chickpea production in Australia is an established industry, with a grower Research & Development (R&D) levy and strategic R&D priorities. Chickpea growers are represented by Pulse Australia.
Facts and figures
- India is the largest producer, accounting for 66% of global production
- Australia, India and Mexico account for 65% of world exports
- Australian production of chickpeas in 2016 was over 2,000,000 tonnes – the vast majority of this being the Desi variety
- Most Australian chickpeas are exported. Nearly 80% of all exported Australian chickpeas went to Pakistan, Bangladesh and India
In 2016, Australia produced over 2,000,000 tonnes of chickpeas (Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences). Approximately 90% of this was the Desi type.
Most Australian chickpeas are exported to India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.