Brazil eyes to expand its share of global pulses and specialty crops

10 May 20237 min reading

Najla Souza
Director of the Brazil - Dry Beans and Sesame Seeds Project


Marcelo Lüders
President of Brazilian Institute of Beans and Pulses (IBRAFE)


Brazil is a huge beans and pulses producer. There are three crops for the dry bean in different seasons for more than 10 in many regions of Brazil, adding up to around 2.8 million square hectares. We believe global demand for Brazilian pulses will expand. The countries chosen for expand new markets were China, Indonesia, Mexico and Colombia.

With the global population set to reach 9.7 billion by 2050, the pressure on agrifood systems to nourish the world has never been higher, while at same time staying within planetary boundaries. Today, consumer behaviors are shifting in response to a multitude of factors, such as climate change, a focus on improving health, especially amid the ongoing pandemic, concerns about the impact of food production on environmental sustainability, rising incomes, among many others. These shifts are driving changes in the food purchasing and consumption habits of consumers. New food sources and food production systems are increasingly being explored with the goal of achieving improved environmental sustainability and nutritional benefits. In this regard, the production of pulses and specialty crops is critical because they are one vital key to sustainable food security.

Currently, there is an uptick in the adoption of plant-based diets, as correlated by the rising trends of vegetarianism, veganism and flexitarianism. Market studies show that this trend is set to continue. As one of the world's most important producers of agricultural products, Brazil does not want to be left behind by this trend. The Latin American country aims to adapt its agricultural production and supply chain to these dynamics and contribute to the world's food security.

We spoke about Brazil's potential in the production and trade of pulses and specialty crops, and its goals in this particular field, with Najla Souza, Director of the Brazil - Dry Beans and Sesame Seeds project, and Marcelo Lüders, President of IBRAFE (Brazilian Institute of Beans and Pulses).

Ms. Souza, could you please tell us a little bit about the mission of the Brazil Dry Beans and Sesame Seeds Project?

Our main goal is to promote the quality of Brazilian Dry Beans and Sesame Seeds, through commercial promotion, market access and the promotion of Brazilian exporting companies.


Mr. Lüders, pulses are considered ‘superfoods’. Why pulses are important in our diet? What is their role in sustainable and healthy food systems?

Pulses are superfoods due to their many benefits, not only for our nutrition but also for the planet. They are a huge font of protein, which is extremely necessary for our diet, but they have a smaller water footprint (6.05 gallons per protein gram) in comparison to other protein sources, such as animal meat (> 20 gallons per protein gram). This helps the population to have a protein-rich diet while not spending much water on the process.


Can you tell us Brazil’s position in world beans and pulses production and trade?

Lüders: Brazil is a huge beans and pulses producer. There are three crops for the dry bean in different seasons for more than 10 in many regions of Brazil, adding up to around 2.8 million square hectares. Currently, the total production is about 3 million ton of beans of many types, specially black, cowpea, carioca and mungo. This total is enough to satisfy the local demand, while also exporting 200 hundred thousand tons for countries such as India, Vietnam, Pakistan and Egypt.


What are Brazil's importance and potential for global food security? How can Brazil help feed the world?

Souza: As being a large country and one of the major agricultural powers in the world, is safe to say that Brazil can contribute to the global food supply, providing food to countries around the world. Its role as a major exporter of commodities like soybeans, beef, and poultry helps meet global demand, particularly from emerging economies.


In March, you organized Dry Beans and Special Crops International Summit in Paraná. How was event attendance and interest? Would you like to share with us some of your impressions of the event?

Souza: In Brazil for a long time we understood that we need to cooperate. If several countries are interested or need to import food, we in Brazil can cooperate and produce. We do seek profit in the capitalism that surrounds us, but we are aware that our mission can be fulfilled with benefits for everyone, starting with the environment. Therefore, we want to provide as much information as possible about how and where we produce. What capacity we will have and under what conditions we will be able to increase the area is our objective. But we need other countries to be ready to share information with us as well. We need to know, in time to plant in the Southern Hemisphere, the real need that each country will have in order to plant in time. So the Summit… will be repeated annually with this objective to bring together those who produce and those who consume. The presence of China and India at the first event and of Brazilian authorities shows that this is the way, it was a success.


What are the major challenges for the Brazilian bean and pulse industry?

Lüders: Brazil faces challenges related to deforestation, land degradation, social inequalities, and sustainability issues in its agricultural practices. We are sustainable and we want you to see with your own eyes how we produce and the regions. It's not just about environmental responsibility more social and governance too. We have corrupt politicians, and we suffer from injustices all the time, but our productive sector is totally different. Properly communicating this is a big challenge.


Which regions or countries do you see as potential new markets for Brazil pulses and special crops? Do you think global demand for Brazilian pulses would expand?

Souza: For sure! A study held by Apex with the help of local producers chose the potential new markets for Brazil’s pulses sector, and the countries chosen for expanding new markets were China, Indonesia, Mexico and Colombia.


How is Brazil’s bean and pulse production outlook for this year? Could also share the prospect for the 2023/24 season?

Lüders: With soy and corn at good prices, we will have another challenging season to supply Brazil and other countries with pulses and special crops. We are in dialogue with the government because we do not want subsidies, but public policies that include not only support for foodstuffs but that understand that there is a 35 billion dollar market that needs suppliers.


What are the major factors driving the global pulses market?

Souza: Plant-based, sustainability and health, cultural diversity, population growth and international trade.


Plant-based meat made from pulses is becoming popular. Can you share some information on the growing plant-based protein market and your opinion about its future?

Souza: We believe that this market is maturing and it will have, like all other moments of intense growth and others of consolidation of the concept. Consumption will not be an option in the future but it will be the only option. There is no way to sustain the planet with only animal protein. Like it or not, it will be a return to the origins of humanity, consuming grains in their original form or in vegetable strips similar to meat.


Consumer awareness in health, origin, environment, climate change and animal welfare has been increasing. How these changing global consumption trends will affect the global pulse trade and consumption?

Lüders: This trend is for sure helping the expansion of global pulse consumption. Pulses are perceived as a healthy food option due to their nutritional profile, and their use in functional foods, snacks, and other value-added products is on the rise. 


Is there anything else you would like to add or share with our readers?

I leave you an invitation to SUMMIT 2024, we will announce the date soon. We are proud of what we are doing here and we want you to come and see for yourself. Sitting at a table having a capirinha and listening to a samba to try to fulfill the mission that each one of us has, which is the privilege of participating in some way in the present and future of humanity.

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