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“Pulses will play a key role in protecting planet”

11 July 201710 min reading

Gordon BACON, Pulse Canada: “The next wave of investment is likely to be in construction of pulse flour milling facilities and continued growth in pulse fractionation plants. In early 2017, a French company announced a new $400 million facility to produce protein from peas. Other new processing facilities have also been announced for construction in Canada.“

gordon bacon

As Miller Magazine, in this issue, we interviewed an association which is specialized in pulse industry: Pulse Canada. As well as contributing to the profitability of the Canadian pulse industry for 20 years, Pulse Canada which works and searches to increase pulse consumption, gets statistics on production and trade from private sector market analysts (there are several subscription services) as well as the public sector (government) estimates provided by Stats Canada and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC).

CEO of Pulse Canada, Gordon Bacon who stressed that pulses will play an increasingly important role in nutritional habits around the world due to affordable, nutritious features, said that farmers should be supported for making as much money growing pulses as they can wheat or oilseeds. With Gordon Bacon, we talked about mission of Pulse Canada, activities which Pulse Canada do for increasing pulse consumption and their future targets. We take the details from Gordon Bacon…

Dear Mr. Bacon, first of all could you give us information on the “Pulse Canada”? When was the association founded? How many members do you have and what are your activities as an association in the industry? What is the mission, purpose of your association? More than 40 years ago, nine farmers from Saskatchewan set up a pulse growers association in that province. Just over 20 years ago, the pulse grower groups in four Canadian provinces sat down with the pulse processors and exporters (the trade) and formed a national association, Pulse Canada. From the beginning, Pulse Canada has worked on keeping Canada’s pulse industry competitive by focusing on the expense side of business (things like transportation costs to port position) and the revenue side of the business (making sure that we remove barriers to trade in markets around the world). This focus is represented in our mission statement: “To contribute to the profitability of the Canadian pulse industry through programs designed to deliver innovative solutions that improve efficiencies and increase value.” You can check our website at www.pulsecanada.com for more information about who we are and what we do.

Could you give us information on pulse production, processing and consumption in Canada? What is the current status and development of pulse industry in Canada as production, consumption and trade? Pulse Canada gets statistics on production and trade from private sector market analysts (there are several subscription services) as well as the public sector (government) estimates provided by Stats Canada and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC). AAFC updates their estimates on a monthly basis. Enter ‘AAFC pulse crop production estimates’ into your search engine and you can find the most recent estimates for the current crop year and the last two years as well for comparisons.

Pulse consumption in Canada is at a very low level, but is increasing. Consumers in Canada are looking to add more plant proteins in their diets, and are interested in living healthier lives. Promotion of pulses in Canada is focused on their contribution to human health, better nutrition and how they are an environmentally sustainable food given their low use of commercial fertilizers.

Since the early 1990s, the Canadian pulse industry has experienced dramatic growth. Canadian pulse production has grown from less than one million tons in 1991 to over 4.8 million tons in 2008 according to FAO statistics. What is the achievement and secret behind? It is estimated that in 2016 Canada produced over 8 million tons of pulses. Pulses have fit very well into a cropping system of cereals (wheat, barley and oats) and oilseeds (canola and increasing amounts of soybean) across Western Canada. Canada grows one crop per year (April to September) and the pulse-cereal-oilseed rotation works well for weed control, timing of harvest, and as a hedge against market fluctuations in one crop that might not impact another crop in the rotation.

From the very early days of pulse production, farmers have been major investors in pulse research. In Saskatchewan, the largest pulse growing province, farmers pay a mandatory and non-refundable levy at the time of sale and this money is used to fund research work. The levy amount varies, but has been between one percent and as low as half of one percent (1% and 0.5%). As an employee of Pulse Canada, I also like to think that farmers working together with the trade have made both groups stronger and more efficient in addressing problems and opportunities.

What is the situation of technological infrastructure of pulse manufacturers in Canada? Is there sufficient investment for advanced technologies? How can it be developed and transformed? I think that investments in pulse research by farmers have ensured a very solid production base. The size and growth of the industry in Canada and around the world have also ensured constant investment in new processing technology. It is a competitive marketplace and while there has been consolidation of some companies, new companies are also entering the market and making significant investments.

The next wave of investment is likely to be in construction of pulse flour milling facilities and continued growth in pulse fractionation plants. In early 2017, a French company announced a new $400 million facility to produce protein from peas. Other new processing facilities have also been announced for construction in Canada.

What do you think about the declaration of 2016 as the International Year of Pulses? Was the declaration an important factor for increasing pulse’s public awareness and consumption? Did this declaration have positive effect on increasing pulse consumption? I noted earlier that I think that when farmers and the trade in Canada made the decision to work together, the entire industry took a great step forward. Similarly, the global pulse industry decision to work in a coordinated manner to promote pulses during International Year of Pulses 2016 was a huge step forward. More was accomplished in one year working together than ever could have been accomplished with all groups working independently. Yes, there was a short term jump in pulse consumption in several countries where consumption data is monitored. Lentil consumption globally is estimated to be up 16% in 2016 (over 2010-2014 levels) and may increase 25% from this base period in 2017. Most importantly, the profile of pulses was raised with respect to both production and consumption.

I also see a strong link between pulses and the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which were released roughly the same time as the start of IYP in the fall of 2015. SDGs are a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity. SDGs include specific targets related to climate change, sustainable consumption and eliminating global hunger. I think pulses will play a key role in helping the world achieve these targets.

As you know, pulse consumption is increasing at a slower rate than the rate of global population growth. And also per capita pulse consumption has been in long-term decline in many world markets. What does your association do about this subject? What are your solution offers for increasing of pulse consumption? Investment in pulse breeding and research into production like improving the rate of nitrogen fixation by crops such as lentils and beans has not been adequate. Food production research is very heavily weighted to carbohydrate crops like rice, wheat and corn, which were the focus of great strides forward in the green revolution from the 1930s to the 1960s. The productivity of pulses has not kept pace with other crops that farmers can grow, and in some countries preferential programs for cereals push pulse production to less fertile land. The result has been that population has grown faster than pulse production. Meat and dairy products are often seen as aspirational sources of protein. Dry pulses take a longer time to cook than some other food choices. Pulse Canada’s approach to increasing consumer interest in pulses has been to educate consumers about the value of pulses from a nutrition and health perspective. Pulse Canada is also working with consumers and food companies to show how diverse pulse utilization can be. In more affluent markets, more than 50% of the food consumed is prepared outside the home, so working with the foodservice industry and food manufacturers is a big part of our work to get consumers to eat more pulses. We are also working to have food companies change the formulation of their cereal-based foods (like bread) to include pulses in the formula.

Where do you see the place of the pulse industry over the world future? Will the pulse industry grow or decline in the coming years? I have no doubt that demand for pulses will increase and this will stimulate investments in pulse production as well. Pulses are affordable, nutritious and will play an increasingly important role in global diets. Pulses have always been a key source of nutrition for people worldwide, and they can only gain in popularity as part of the sustainable approach to feeding 9 billion people. With diabetes and heart disease as two of the four most widespread non-communicable diseases on earth, tackling obesity is a challenge for almost every nation on earth. Adding pulses to many foods can improve diet quality and help address obesity and diet-related diseases.

 What are the benefits of pulse on human health? People want to eat tasty food! And people want to be healthy and active for a long life. Adding pulses to diets and rebalancing the mix of foods we eat is the most important step in keeping people healthy for a longer period of time. Pulses deliver protein and fibre, and a number of key micronutrients like iron, zinc, folate and magnesium. Importantly, they are also a low glycemic food and can improve the glycemic index (how your blood sugar is affected after eating) of many cereal-based foods. Satiety, sustained energy and disease prevention are key contributors to our health.

But let’s not forget about the health of the planet. No other food ingredient makes a better contribution to both healthy people and a healthy planet than pulses! Protecting the environment by making the right food choices is also about protecting human health in the long run!

What are your final remarks? Let’s keep our focus on diets that are affordable, good for our health and environmentally sustainable. Let’s rethink how we can formulate foods that taste good, are convenient to eat, and that people think of as an aspirational food for every day. Let’s ensure that farmers can make as much money growing pulses as they can wheat or oilseeds. This is our goal. To reach that goal, we will need to keep working together and sharing what we have learned. Let’s ensure that we create a passion for pulses as a key part of the future of food!

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