Quantcast
Get breaking news alerts via email

Click here to manage your alerts
FILE - In this Aug. 28, 2013 file photo, Florentino Ornelas, mill assistant at Blue Mountain Seed in Walla Walla, Wash.,unloads chickpeas for processing at the plant. Acreage devoted to chickpeas has exploded in the past decade in Washington and Idaho, which grow some two-thirds of the nation's supply. Chickpeas require little water, and that's a major plus in the dry region. (AP Photo/Tri-City Herald, Paul T. Erickson, File)
Hummus drives chickpea growth; farmers benefit
First Published Mar 05 2014 01:19 pm • Last Updated Mar 08 2014 12:02 pm

Spokane, Wash. • The rising popularity of hummus across the nation has been good for farmers like Aaron Flansburg.

Flansburg, who farms 1,900 acres amid the rolling hills of southeastern Washington, has been increasing the amount of the chickpeas used to make hummus by about one-third each year to take advantage of good prices and demand.

Join the Discussion
Post a Comment

"I hope that consumption keeps increasing," he said.

Lawmakers in the nation’s capital hope so, too. The new federal Farm Bill contains two provisions that are intended to boost consumption of chickpeas even more, along with their companion, so-called pulse crops peas and lentils.

Acreage devoted to chickpeas has exploded in the past decade in Washington and Idaho, which grow some two-thirds of the nation’s supply. Chickpeas require little water, and that’s a major plus in the dry region, Flansburg said.

"They work pretty well in our region," he said.

In the Palouse region, which straddles both states, there are more than 150,000 acres producing chickpeas today, up from about 12,000 acres in 2000, said Todd Scholz of the USA Dry Pea and Lentil Council, the trade group for the nation’s growers.

Chickpeas, also known as garbanzo beans, are also grown in California, Montana, North Dakota and other states, he said.

Historically, about 70 percent of the chickpea crop in this region was exported each year, Flansburg said. But that has changed because of the rising domestic demand for hummus, he said.

"That’s a good thing to have that balance," he said.


story continues below
story continues below

The majority of the nation’s supply is consumed domestically, mostly in the form of hummus, Scholz said.

Farmers are currently getting about 28 to 30 cents a pound for chickpeas, which is an average price for recent years, Flansburg said. He’s seen prices top 50 cents per pound, but a big crop in India this year has pushed prices down a bit, he said.

Flansburg doesn’t expect to expand chickpea production much more. He also produces high-value dry peas and lentils.

Hummus, once an exotic Middle Eastern food that was hard to find, is now sold in grocery stores, big and small. Often used by the health-conscious as a dip or spread, it can now be found in about 20 percent of the nation’s households, Scholz said.

That leaves plenty more room for growth, he said.

For instance, hummus is in about 98 percent of households in Israel, he said.

Retail sales of hummus increased to $250 million in 2013, up from $192 million in 2007 and just $5 million in 1997, said U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., who helped push the Farm Bill provisions on chickpeas.

It should get even more popular as school children are introduced to the food, she said. The bill includes a pilot program in which the U.S. Department of Agriculture will spend $10 million over five years to purchase pulse crops to use in school breakfasts and lunches.

Pulse crops are cheap, and loaded with protein, fiber and other nutrients, Scholz said. Flours made from pulse crops can be added to breads, tortillas and pastas to enhance their nutritional value.

Mead High School near Spokane serves garbanzo beans, lentils and hummus as part of school meals. "They are a less expensive protein source so it stretches our dollars," said Kim Elkins, Mead School District nutrition director.

Cantwell said the growth of the chickpea market will also help bring more jobs to Washington state.

Next Page >


Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Top Reader Comments Read All Comments Post a Comment
Click here to read all comments   Click here to post a comment


About Reader Comments


Reader comments on sltrib.com are the opinions of the writer, not The Salt Lake Tribune. We will delete comments containing obscenities, personal attacks and inappropriate or offensive remarks. Flagrant or repeat violators will be banned. If you see an objectionable comment, please alert us by clicking the arrow on the upper right side of the comment and selecting "Flag comment as inappropriate". If you've recently registered with Disqus or aren't seeing your comments immediately, you may need to verify your email address. To do so, visit disqus.com/account.
See more about comments here.
Staying Connected
Videos
Jobs
Contests and Promotions
  • Search Obituaries
  • Place an Obituary

  • Search Cars
  • Search Homes
  • Search Jobs
  • Search Marketplace
  • Search Legal Notices

  • Other Services
  • Advertise With Us
  • Subscribe to the Newspaper
  • Access your e-Edition
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Contact a newsroom staff member
  • Access the Trib Archives
  • Privacy Policy
  • Missing your paper? Need to place your paper on vacation hold? For this and any other subscription related needs, click here or call 801.204.6100.