Food industry turns pulses to satisfy growing demand for plant-based food

08 November 20218 min reading

Growth in the health-conscious population is a major factor contributing to the growth of the pulses market. As the climate has been changed and population growth, pulses are the key to sustainable food systems. Therefore, the food industry is turning to pulses to satisfy this demand. 

Denis Plenkin
Agropa Trading

One of the most crucial issues for the rapidly growing world population is how to feed the next generations. It is estimated that the world population will hit 9,5 billion in 2050 and the food demand of this population will increase by %60. This makes the production of pulses critical because they are one vital key to sustainable protein security. Because pulses are nutrient-dense and a high-quality source of protein, they can help address the problems of hunger, malnutrition and obesity. Hopefully, the demand for pulses is on the rise. The food industry is turning to pulses to satisfy this demand. Plant-based foods are growing in popularity. Ingredients made from pulses are increasingly being used in food products.

We discussed the latest developments in the global pulse markets and major factors driving the market with Denis Plenkin, Director of Agropa Trading, an independent brokerage company specializing in agricultural commodities.

Mr. Plenkin, could you please tell us a little bit about yourself and your company?

My name is Denis Plenkin, I’m a director of Agropa Trading. We act as cash commodity brokers and cover all the primary markets. Our main focus is the commodity origination in the Black Sea region and destination business into Turkey, the Mediterranean Sea, the Caspian Sea, Europe, the Persian Gulf, and Asia. We deal with cereals, oilseeds, oils, pulses, feedstuff, and coriander. Additionally, to that, we contribute our market reports to Thompson Reuters (Refinitif). 

Production of major pulse crops in Russia and Ukraine

What are the major factors driving the global pulses market?

Growth in the health-conscious population is a major factor contributing to the growth of the pulses market. As the climate has been changed and population growth, pulses are the key to sustainable food systems. Therefore, the food industry is turning to pulses to satisfy this demand. 

What has been the impact of COVID-19 on the global pulses market?

I can mark with confidence that the COVID-19 has affected the consumption of legumes, but in defense of pulses, we can also note a decrease in the consumption of meat, poultry, and fish.

During this pandemic, we see them avoid meat and poultry products, but there is no empirical evidence yet. Also, the demand for beans and other crops from biofuel producers is making a tangible contribution to the rise in prices, Bloomberg notes.

The world today faces a challenge: achieving food security and providing balanced nutrition for the entire population of the planet. The statistics are disappointing: about 800 million people suffer from chronic hunger and about two billion from deficiencies of one or more micronutrients. At the same time, more than half a billion people are obese, and disease such as cancer is also gaining momentum. More and more consumers are turning to legumes as a source of plant-based protein.

What are legumes remarkable for? 

These are Nutrition and Health, Climate Change, Biodiversity, and Food Security.

Who are the key players in the pulses market?

• Australia

• Brazil

• Canada

• China

• India

• Russia

• Myanmar


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?

More and more people are cutting down on meat consumption. They change diets for a variety of reasons: environmental concerns that are detrimental to conventional animal husbandry; taking care of your own health or taking care of animals. In economically prosperous countries, a growing number of people are switching to plant foods, becoming vegans or flexitarians, and eating as little meat as possible.

Exports of major pulse crops from Russia and Ukraine

Various studies show that eating meat can increase your risk of heart disease and cancer. Avoiding meat and dairy products is one of the most effective ways to reduce the human influence on nature says Science magazine.

Livestock leads to the emission of greenhouse gases, which together lead to global warming. According to a UN report, livestock generates 14.5% of all greenhouse gases.

Artificial meat, made from legumes, is gaining immense popularity. Vegetable meat is still more expensive than traditional meat. According to our estimates, the purchase price for Beyond Meat is about 40-45% higher than marbled beef. So far, this meat is quite expensive, but this is understandable: people have invested half a billion dollars in the company, they need to beat them off, somehow return the investment to their shareholders. In general, vegetable meat in production is an order of magnitude cheaper than animal meat; it can feed all the hungry. Without a doubt, it can be argued that this product has great prospects in the global market, which is already beginning to bear fruit.


What will be the key factors affecting the pulse prices in the coming months?

The Covid-19 pandemic has spurred an increase in healthy eating to boost recovery and build immunity, but this change could end up costing common folk a packet. The prices of pulses, among the cheapest sources of protein, have risen by over 15 percent since last year. Milk, fruits, and vegetables have also seen price rises, with edible oil prices surging by about 50 percent since last year. In May, world retail inflation hit a six-month high of 6.3 percent.

Do you think Russian wheat export taxes would undermine the competitiveness of Russia on the international market?

New taxes and restrictions will affect the competitiveness of Russian products. In this case, Russian exporters were forced to raise offer prices for Russian wheat, which made it less competitive compared with rival origins and slowed exports.

Russia can consider some options for changes in the floating wheat export tax, like raising the base price from the current $200/t or lowering the current 70% rate in the tax calculation formula in a bid to restore the competitiveness of Russian wheat.

With the current export policy, Russia's government is risking missing its wheat export target for this marketing season, repeating the experience of the previous season, when at least 8mn t of wheat export potential was not shipped because of export restrictions.

Do you think the worldwide shipping container shortage will continue next year?

The flip side of the boom in the home and design industry over the past year and a half is the global shipping crisis. Demand has never been higher, and wait times never longer. There was a preliminary hope that the rollout of vaccines would help ease the logistical nightmare as consumers began spending less on goods and more on services and experiences and ports and manufacturers started to return to pre-pandemic staffing levels. But the tangled web that was woven last year is not coming undone so easily. Experts are now saying that it will be at least the first quarter of 2022 before shipping leads time will stabilize.

Eventually, the shipping industry thinks the container shortage will sort itself out. “It is expected that the situation will improve, bottlenecks are expected to be relieved, buying patterns likely to normalize, as well as additional vessels and containers entering the market in 2021, means that the current vessel and container shortage is temporary in nature,” Lars Mikael Jensen, an executive at the freight titan Maersk. How long that will take is anyone’s guess. Sondey, the Triton CEO ( World’s Largest Container Leasing Company) predicted on the April earnings call that the shortage will drag into 2022: “I haven’t seen any of our customers express confidence that they can, within this current strong period, "unbottleneck" their operations. 

But any prediction for how the shortage will end needs to be taken with a grain of salt, according to Shih, the Harvard professor. He points to recent unexpected events that have exacerbated trade headaches, like the Suez Canal blockage or the coronavirus outbreak that forced China to close its massive Yantian Port. This stuff keeps happening because there is not enough slack in the global supply chain, and the shortage will get better next year if more stuff doesn’t happen—but that hasn’t been a good assumption lately.

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