Agriculture This Week - Pulse crops interesting option

It is interesting how ideas percolate to fill this space on a weekly basis for more than 30-years now.

Earlier last week my better half sent me a link regarding pulse exports and India, which I had more or less forgotten by the time I sat down to write a column, and frankly probably would have, except my better half had also questioned what we might have for lunch on Easter Sunday.

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There was left over ham in the freezer, and well she hadn’t made homemade baked lentils for ages, so it was off Saturday to buy some bulk lentils, and well they turned out great, and here I am thinking lentils, and by extension pulse crops.

Pulse crops of course have a huge potential as they are eaten as a protein source in many countries, but knowing which pulses to grow in a given year is a bit of a lottery pick because there are such a range of crops within the world of pulses.

For example, at the local bulk food outlet my better half had wanted black lentils for the baked dish. She had made them before and they looked unique in the bowl and tasted great.

There were no black lentils, only brown and red. She chose brown, and they turned out great, although didn’t have the same dynamic look of the black ones.

For us, a lentil is a lentil is a lentil, but in world markets there are a range of colours and each tends to have rather specific markets, so while red lentils might go up in price, the brown may not, and therein lies a challenge for producers, tracking numerous markets.

It’s the same with yellow and green peas, and of course the variety of beans grown is huge, although not all are viable crops on the Canadian Prairies.

The variety within in pulses is its greatest potential as a crop for Canadian farmers, but also the greatest challenge.

Most years there will be a pulse crop with a solid upside in terms of price, but since some types have a rather limited niche market they are also prone to price swings based on rather minor production shifts.

So producers need to stay very focused on markets and most of the key ones are on the other side of the world, with India driving much of the pulse demand, with Pakistan, China and Turkey also key.

Understanding the complexities of the varied pulse sector, and its associated markets are certainly more challenging than a much better understood canola or wheat market, but those challenges do offer opportunities.

As the protein market changes, the opportunities are only going to grow too.

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