Kia versus Cadillac. Timex versus Omega. Sheraton versus Super 8. With no offence intended to those who own KIAs, Timex watches and like the Super 8, there is a notable difference in quality and corresponding price to the items above.
With all things there are markets for the best quality, the lowest quality and everywhere in between. Typically the highest-quality and value markets are lower in volume and the lower quality are higher in volume. The world’s pulse and food markets are no different. There is the lower quality, more price-sensitive markets with greater trade volumes and higher quality nd less price-sensitive markets with lower volumes.
When we think of pulse markets our minds often gravitate to the Middle East, India and the Indian sub-continent, and rightly so, as these are the higher-volume and more price-conscious markets. Some of the higher-quality markets are perhaps less traditional; one such market is the United Kingdom (U. K.).
One of the leading importers of Canadian pulses in the U. K. is A. Poortman of London. They have been importing pulses and grains from Canada to supply the U. K. canning and packing industry for nearly 30 years. I asked Neil Goates, Poortman’s domestic pulse market trader, about the U. K. market and Canada’s role now and going forward.
Poortman’s estimates the U. K. market for pulses as follows:
1) Red split lentils: 20,000 tonnes (mt)
2) Green lentils (mostly Laird type): 5,000 mt
3)Chickpeas: 15,000 mt, primarily 7 mm and 8 mm
4) Dry beans, coloured beans, excluding navy: 20,000 mt
Red split lentils have been imported from Canada since 2003. Canada now has an approximate 50 per cent market share. The balance of the import is split between Turkey, Syria and Australia. Of the green lentils imported, Canada has an estimated 80 per cent market share. The balance comes from the U. S., Australia and Argentina. The U. K. receives about 20 per cent of its chickpeas from Canada, the other competing origins are Turkey, the former Soviet Union, Australia, Argentina, and the U. S. Canadian beans make up 15 per cent, with other regions such as the U. S., Turkey and China supplying the balance.
A GROWING MARKET
As noted above, Canada has achieved some success in penetrating the U. K. market. Goates says that Canada has been slower to adapt to the U. K. standards of quality and food safety standards than other origins such as Turkey. As Canadian processors have recognized the need for HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point) certification and other U. K. requirements, the market share has grown.
Goates expects the demand for pulses in the U. K. to continue to grow. “Consumption over past few years has increased in the U. K. as more and more as consumers learn to cook with pulses, which has led to a bigger push by retailers,” he says. The slow food movement has become more popular over the past few years, leading to more adventurous cooking at home. The global recession has pushed people back home to cook, he says, increasing consumption of some grocery staples, such as pulses. “Manufactured items such as hummus (main ingredient is chickpeas) have become more popular. We expect demand to continue to increase over the next few years, especially as pulses play a healthy part in a balanced diet, which has a lot of focus in the U. K.,” he says.
QUALITY AND TRACEABILITY
So what can farmers do to take advantage of increased demand in the smaller, yet very quality-conscious U. K. market? Think quality and traceability every step of the way.
Due to increased gluten allergies, the U. K. has tight tolerances for cereal admixes in the products received. In addition, food safety is on the mind of the U. K. processor and consumer more than ever; the ability to trace products to the farmer and for the farmer to trace his production methods is becoming a requirement.
Farmers and processors in Canada need to treat pulses as a food, or food ingredient and less like a commodity. There can and will be higher values to the farmers who are conscientious about quality, keeping volunteer cereals in check and maintaining good records for traceability.
The market for Cadillacs is smaller than the market for a Kia, certainly. In the same way, only a small portion of Canadian production reaches the U. K., but as demand and consumption increase in this non-traditional region, Canada can and should be poised to increase our share of this market. We can accomplish this with a good understanding of the quality and safety requirements for the market and a focus on food versus commodity.
withWigmoreFarms( www.wigmorefarms.com) basedatRegina,Sask.Haveyougota
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