Crop Week: Domestic pulse processing touted

Increased domestic processing capacity will help improve the long-term success of the pulse sector in Western Canada, said Murad Al-Katib, CEO of SaskCan Pulse/Alliance Grain Traders, which plans to build a processing plant in Saskatchewan.

Speaking here Tuesday to the Saskatchewan Pulse Growers during Crop Week, Al-Katib stressed that the pulse sector should be focussed on producing "food" rather than a "commodity," and pointed to the growing demand for protein and healthy foods around the world.

Giving the example of a corn processor in the U.S., producing everything from flour to starch to corn oil to high fructose corn syrup, Al-Katib saw the same potential in pulses and said there were markets for the protein, starch and fibre components of the peas, lentils and other pulse crops grown in Western Canada.

While there will always be a place in the Canadian industry for bulk seed exports, which account for most of Canada’s pulse industry currently, Al-Katib said domestic processing would serve to increase the overall price seen by producers, as importing nations would need to pay up to secure supplies.

If value is created domestically, Canadian prices also become less dependent on production issues elsewhere, said Al-Katib.

Consumers are showing interest in pulse-based food ingredients, but Al-Katib said more research and development work was still needed in order to provide detailed evidence on the benefits and attributes of the product.

Food companies, he said, are also reluctant to reformat their products without a scale of reliable supply, something more processing capacity in Western Canada would bring.

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