APG Director Sees More Opportunity for Alberta Pulse Exports on Trip to Pulses Conclave in India (PCN Summer 2016) JUN 24 2016 | Consumers and Producers | Pulse Crop News
This article appeared in the Summer 2016 issue of Pulse Crop News.
Representing the Alberta Pulse Growers at the Pulses Conclave in India allowed APG Vice-Chair D’Arcy Hilgartner the rare opportunity to explore a country that depends on Canadian pulses to feed its growing population.
“Anytime you can go to a country that is one of your major importers of pulses from Canada and Alberta, specifically yellow peas and red lentils, that’s a key thing to do,” Hilgartner said. “I like the fact that you’re following the chain from my field near Camrose to the shelves in Delhi or Jaipur in India. It was quite a whirlwind trip but very rewarding.”
Hilgartner was a member of a delegation from Alberta that included Alberta Agriculture and Forestry representatives Mark Olson, Unit HeadPulse Crops, and Etienne van Straaten, Trade Development Officer.
Prior to attending the conclave in Jaipur from Feb. 17- 19, the group met with the Canadian Trade Commissioner in Delhi and representatives of the Alberta-Delhi trade office.
“That was great to get a sense of what India’s economy is like and what their government is like and what their needs are,” Hilgartner explained. “In regard to pulses, they are traditionally short about two million tonnes of pulses a year compared to what they produce. That is why it is such a huge market for us. In the last few years, we’ve supplied the vast majority of that from Canada (Alberta and Saskatchewan).”
Hilgartner added that representatives from a Calgary company that sells temperature and moisture sensors also participated in some meetings with the Alberta delegation because the Indian government is interested in modernizing their storage facilities.
“For the most part, India’s storage is piles on the ground,” Hilgartner explained, adding that Indian farmers produce about 19 million tonnes of pulses. “They’re looking at putting up more bins and the like for longer term storage. G. Chandrashekhar, an Economic Advisor from India who spoke at the Pulses Conclave, estimated that through the Indian system – from the minute the product hits the port to when it hits the consumer as well as the crops they produce that go into their system – they’re losing about 20 per cent. If they were able to fix that 20 per cent loss, it would basically cover their shortfall.”
The group also toured a pulse mill to see how they package their domestically-grown pulses, mainly chickpeas and pigeon peas.
“When they buy our yellow peas, they’re often using it as a supplement,” Hilgartner said. “It used to be that when people in India ran out of chickpeas, they used yellow peas as a substitution. They have been importing our yellow peas for so long now that some prefer the yellow peas or they’ll use chickpeas in this recipe and yellow peas in that recipe. It’s not that they use yellow peas because they can’t get chickpeas or they’re too expensive. They use the red lentils as a replacement for the pigeon peas.”
The tour also included visiting a traditional middle class market and a bazaar that Hilgartner said was very similar to a mall setting in Edmonton or Calgary.
“In typical Indian culture, they’re always looking for efficiencies,” Hilgartner remarked. “If I had a dollar for every time I was asked by an Indian miller or the like, ‘how can I buy directly from your farm,’ I could have paid for my trip. They don’t understand the fact that I’m far from the coast. That makes no sense to them.”
Hilgartner said that despite it being two years since the Canadian transportation issue came to a head, potential buyers still raised it as a concern for them.
“The damage that does to our reputation is huge and it is long-term damage,” he said, adding that the comments he heard prove that Pulse Canada’s work on the transportation file remains important.
He added that there were many pulse traders among the 1,100 delegates who attended the Pulses Conclave, a biennial event hosted by the India Pulses and Grains Association.
“They all want to know what’s going on in Canada because Canadian production numbers and supply is so important to them,” Hilgartner recalled. “When it comes to chickpeas, they’re very interested in Australia. Once they hear those kinds of numbers, the traders disappear into the hallways to do deals.”
Hilgartner said that discussions at the Pulses Conclave and insights gleaned from his week in India showed him where there are further opportunities for Canadian pulses in India, where residents eat pulses every day.
“You have 350 million people in India that they consider middle class who have disposable money to spend on pulses from different sources, which is an opportunity for us to expand not just in pulses but in pulse products,” he said.
One Conclave session explained a plan to increase India’s own pulse production, but Hilgartner said that the country’s increasing population means that there will always be a need to import.
The Pulses Conclave 2016 included the launch of the International Year of Pulses campaign by CICILS Global Pulses Confederation. Presentations from the event can be viewed at www.ipga.co.in/india-pulses-conclave-2.