Pea acres in the province could see a growth spurt following the announcement global ingredient and pharmaceutical giant Roquette will build its next processing plant in Manitoba.
The $400-million pea-processing plant will be located just outside Portage la Prairie and is expected to employ 150 people once complete.
“I expect there will be more pea acres in the province as a result of this, because guys can sell them locally,” said Jason Voth, chairman of Manitoba Pulse and Soybean Growers. “I think it will increase to a point where it becomes sustainable long term. I’m hoping they work with growers to get a stable base of peas going and that will be price dependent — and most importantly, weather dependent.”
Roquette’s vice-president of pea and new proteins, Pascal Leroy, said the plant will process about 120,000 tonnes of peas each year.
“That is why it is a huge investment for us,” said Leroy adding the company also anticipates an increase in Manitoba pea production as a result of their investment in the province. Additional pea supply will come from neighbouring provinces as needed, he added.
Speaking during a press conference at the Manitoba legislature, company chairman Edouard Roquette said the new plant “will support the future of Manitoba’s agriculture industry and help address the growing global demand for innovative food, nutrition and health products and solutions.”
Construction is expected to begin before the end of the year and once running at full capacity it will be the largest plant dedicated to pea protein processing in the world.
“This new investment in Manitoba marks a key step in reinforcing Roquette’s leadership position in offering high-value plant-based ingredients around the world,” Roquette said.
He added that Manitoba’s quality workforce, as well as the province’s centrally located transportation network, were key to the company’s decision to locate the plant in Manitoba. Canada is also the world’s largest pea producer.
Manitoba’s agriculture minister was on hand for the announcement, but initially indicated there was no financial contribution to the project on the part of the province.
A spokesperson for Minister Ralph Eichler later said the Manitoba government has provided up to $6.82 million in tax increment financing (TIF) to Roquette in order to assist with site development costs.
“This TIF will support the development by providing grants equivalent to applicable incremental provincial education taxes over a set number of years based on the initial assessed value of the property,” said the spokesperson.
Following the project’s announcement, Eichler noted increased pea acres could also yield positive returns in terms of sustainability, pointing out the crop’s ability to fix nitrogen.
“Peas are an excellent source of protein, which is in growing demand around the world,” said Eichler. “They are also a sustainable crop, complementing the land management and environmental stewardship techniques practised by our farmers.”
He added that approximately 160,000 acres of peas were planted in the province last year.
Voth noted that consecutive wet years in the province have been a limiting factor in pea production, but said that will likely be changing in the coming years.
“I’d say in Manitoba it was always price and weather that was the limiting factor in growing peas, but as soon as you add value-added processing to a product… then the price farmers receive will be a little bit higher,” he said. “Peas are suited to a little bit drier conditions, but as soon as we hit that drier cycle in the weather, peas are going to take off.”