Pulse crops are the edible seed of legume crops, and include dry peas and beans, lentils and chickpeas.
India is the largest producer of these pulse crops, followed by Canada. Countries mainly producing beans are Brazil, Myanmar and Mexico, while countries like Canada, China, the US, and to a degree Mexico, produce some of all the pulse crops. Turkey largely produces lentils and chickpeas, while France and Russia are pea-producing countries.
Over the last 10 years, international pulse trade has averaged around 7.4 million tonnes per year. Peas accounted for approximately 42%, with beans at 36%, lentils at 12% and chickpeas at 9% (Pulse Canada, August 22, 2007).
The three main markets for pulses are food, feed, and ingredients. The ingredient market breaks pulses into starch, protein, and fibre that can then be used for food or feed. Canada's pulse consumption as food is small compared to other countries. Canada's pea consumption is estimated at 1% of its total production, while around 19% is used for feed. The demand for pulses for use as food and feed is expected to rise globally. The Canadian ingredient market uses approximately 50,000-70,000 tonnes of pulses processed into flour or its constituent parts.
The use of feed peas in a number of animal rations has proved successful. Peas are rich in protein, lysine, and starch to provide the essential amino acids and energy required by high-producing animals.
Pulses are a healthy food choice providing twice the amount of protein of cereal grains, high levels of dietary fibre and important vitamins and minerals. They are a gluten free food and have a low glycemic index (important for people with diabetes). Regular consumption of pulses may reduce the risk of certain diseases.
There are benefits to increasing the use of pulses in crop rotations. They reduce the amount of fertilizer needed due to nitrogen fixation, as well as provide secondary benefits to the soil and crops that follow in rotation. Peas can fix up to 90% of their nitrogen needs, and provide some residual nitrogen for the following crop.
Transportation presents some challenges and opportunities for pulse growers. Product moves by rail on hopper cars, boxcars, containers, or through intermodal terminals to the ports. The pulse industry is concerned about the lack of containers and inability to move product quickly enough to overseas markets. In September 2007, a new container facility opened in Prince Rupert. This will further ease the pressure at the Port of Vancouver, in their capacity to handle special crops and export product more quickly into the Asian market.
Source: Agriculture and Rural Development, Government of Alberta
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