Move over quinoa and look out soil, pulses have claimed the podium.
Last week the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization announced that 2016 has been christened the International Year of Pulses, a title that will lead to co-ordinated efforts among growers, scientists, health experts and nations in an effort to encourage the consumption of dried legume crops.
“We are excited to be a part of this… pulses produced in our province are enjoyed locally and internationally, and we look forward to new opportunities to spread the message that pulses are good for people and good for the planet,” said Francois Labelle, executive director of the Manitoba Pulse and Soybean Growers association.
About $100 million worth of pulses — such as dry beans, dry peas, chickpeas and lentils — are grown in Manitoba each year.
In developing countries, pulse crops are considered especially important because of their high nutritional content and low input requirements. The United Nations notes that more than 800 million people around the world suffer from acute or chronic undernourishment, which is linked to a growing number of health problems and enduring ailments, including diabetes and obesity. Issues that could be eased in part by an increase in the production and consumption of pulse crops.
“Pulses have great potential to help eradicate hunger, plus tackle many chronic health conditions, such as obesity and diabetes,” said Huseyin Arslan, president of the Global Pulse Confederation, a worldwide not-for-profit trade organization. “We congratulate the UN on its focus on pulses and their importance to global food security and nutrition.”
Pulses, which can also be made into flour, are high in fibre, protein and various vitamins as well — all properties linked to a decreased risk of stroke or heart attack.
Gordon Bacon, CEO of Pulse Canada, was in Rome, Italy for the official announcement and noted that Canada is the world’s largest exporter of dry peas and lentils.
“Canadians can be proud of the contribution we’re making to global food security as a major supplier to countries around the world,” said Bacon, adding that Canadian Pulses can be found in more than 150 countries. In 2014, Canadian Pulse exports were worth more than $3 billion.
Turkey, China and India are Canada’s largest export markets.
In January 2016, the Manitoba Pulse and Soybean Growers will kick off a consumer awareness campaign encouraging more Manitobans to eat and enjoy pulses.
But already, the announcement that 2016 will be the International Year of Pulses has generated a trove of online resources, videos and information aimed at consumers, farmers, food processors and service providers.
“Pulses are considered the food of the future,” Labelle said. “They provide excellent nutrition and require much less energy to produce than other crops. That sustainability is key in feeding our families and the world.”