New opportunities not enough for pulse exports

While it works to diversify, Canada shouldn’t neglect its old standbys, says one expert

Canada must address barriers to major export markets while finding new opportunities for its pulse crops, one expert told producers at a Manitoba Pulse and Soybean Growers meeting on Jan. 29.

Mac Ross.
photo: Geralyn Wichers

“We’re still in a transition phase before a full realization of these new opportunities for pulses,” said Mac Ross, director of market access and trade policy with Pulse Canada.

Ross told producers in the Portage la Prairie meeting that, while Pulse Canada used to focus on tariff reduction, that has shifted.

“What we know now is if a country wants to keep product out, it can utilize non-tariff measures to do so,” he said — be it regulations, technical methods or health and safety concerns.

“Not only is it America first, it’s India first, Italy first. That’s just sort of the reality we’re left with,” he said.

In 2017, India imposed tariffs on peas, lentils and chickpeas. Recently, “more questionable policy measures” like minimum price imposition and port restrictions have compounded troubles, Ross said.

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To address these issues, Canada is “marshalling a global response,” Ross said. Canada has joined with pulse-growing nations through the Global Pulse Confederation and will meet with Indian government officials and agriculture policy-makers in February.

Ross said the goal is to push India to become more predictable and transparent so producers in exporting nations can make the best marketing and planting decisions.

While pea exports to India have dropped dramatically, “we’ve seen China pick up the slack in a real way,” said Ross.

However, he cautioned against overreliance on that market, saying that China is just as focused on diversifying imports as Canada is on diversifying its export markets. This has included making agreements with Black Sea countries like Ukraine and Kazakhstan to grant them phytosanitary access for peas.

Ross said Pulse Canada is working to build the fractionation market in China and to open doors to other crops. Pulse Canada has worked with the Canadian government to submit pest risk assessments to apply to export fababeans, chickpeas, dry beans and lentils to China.

We’ve begun to see good progress in finding new uses for pulses, Ross added. For instance, the use of pulses in pet foods has increased by 500 per cent in the last decade, he said.

“In the meantime, obviously, we need to focus on addressing these key issues in the markets that we currently rely on.”

About the author

Reporter

Geralyn Wichers

Geralyn Wichers grew up on a hobby farm near Anola, Manitoba, where her family raised cattle, pigs and chickens. Geralyn graduated from Red River College’s Creative Communications program in 2019 and was previously a reporter for The Carillon in Steinbach. Geralyn is also a published author of science fiction and fantasy novels.

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