When it comes to market access woes, the pulse industry has had its share.
“It was 2004 when India introduced some issues around stem and bulb nematode – so that’s fifteen years we’ve been working with India trying to get that issue resolved,” says Gordon Bacon, CEO of Pulse Canada. “And of course India’s been a big problem for the Canadian pulse industry and the industry around the world for the last three years.”
After the May election of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, however, Bacon has seen some change. India seems to be open to discussion now, and there are talks of international trade meetings in the country in early August.
- Modi wins Indian election, triggering speculation on the future of pulse import tariffs
- Renewed focus on diversifying pulse markets a “silver lining” of India’s tough tariffs
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Diversifying market base
But with all the attention on India, you have to wonder, have we been too focused on one market?
“Fifteen years ago we started focusing on health and nutrition because we knew we were very reliant on India,” says Bacon, adding the focus about nine years ago shifted to include environmental sustainability, and later new ingredient applications (like lentil flour in breakfast cereal).
And though the latest trend towards plant-based proteins has many in the pulse industry smiling, it also raises questions about preparedness, says Bacon, what Canadian pulses offer above the rest, and can we do a better job on the varieties we grow for this new use.
“The challenge now is about making sure we’re ready for the new economy, which also includes the old economy at the same time. We’re not going to be a non-commodity supplier – we’re going to be both commodity as well as food ingredient.”
Going forward, the pulse industry plans to continue to focus on strengthening market diversity, exploring sustainability, and looking at its role in human health.
“I think we have a broad plan, but I think we need to have some defined actions,” says Bacon, adding these will have to come from the whole value chain, from regulatory reform to plant breeding initiatives.