Pulse industry sets platform for future growth
Author: Sharon Watt | Date: 06 Nov 2013
The Australian pulse industry is well placed to build its production base and capture increased domestic and global market share, according to industry leaders attending a national forum.
Pulse Breeding Australia's Inaugural Pulse Conference, held in South Australia, has established a clear picture of where the nation’s pulse industry is positioned in a global context and what it needs to do to remain relevant, sustainable and viable.
Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) Southern Regional Panel deputy chair, Dr Chris Blanchard, says opportunities abound for the Australian industry but seizing these will require ongoing innovation and effort – from research and breeding through to marketing and processing.
“Australia is facing increasing competition from established and emerging pulse-producing countries so it is imperative that we continue to explore ways of securing market share and invest in cutting-edge research that will underpin future expansion,” said Dr Blanchard, who provided opening remarks at the conference on behalf of the GRDC.
“As an industry, we must focus on production of a high quality food for human consumption and breed and grow varieties that meet very specific export market requirements,” said Dr Blanchard.
“Getting Australians to eat more pulses is also critical. With pulses not being a traditional part of the Australian diet, we need to promote the taste, nutritional and health qualities of pulses and their versatility in cooking.”
Dr Blanchard, an Associate Professor in Food Science at Charles Sturt University’s School of Biomedical Sciences in Wagga Wagga (NSW), said the PBA Inaugural Pulse Conference brought together leading players in the pulse industry who discussed the latest developments in pulse breeding, agronomy and production, as well as the marketing and consumption of pulses.
“From those discussions, it was apparent that we have an industry passionate about building a vibrant future for Australian pulse production. We now need to harness that passion and enthusiasm and use it to drive the industry’s progress.”
Supported by the GRDC, the conference was attended by growers, agronomists, marketers and researchers, and involved a field day at Tarlee and two conference days in Adelaide.
The first-of-its-kind pulse conference was aimed at bringing all industry personnel together to examine ways of expanding pulse production (chickpeas, lentils, field peas, lupins and faba beans) within Australian cropping systems.
Dr Blanchard said the benefits of including a pulse in crop sequences were well known and that the development of new varieties with higher yields and improved disease resistance had provided growers with more productive and cost-effective crops, but he believed potential existed to substantially improve the quality attributes of varieties.
“We are lagging behind some of our international competitors in understanding the quality of our pulses and the potential value-added opportunities that exist, but we are working at addressing deficiencies so we can access higher-value markets that will further increase the profitability of Australian pulses.”
Dr Blanchard said the GRDC continued to invest in the development of improved pulse varieties through PBA’s world-class breeding program, and was also funding a suite of research projects to assist growers in their quest to produce more profitable pulse crops.
“In the southern cropping region alone, the GRDC is investing in a suite of targeted pulse-related projects that range from analysis of market opportunities to biotechnology tools to accelerate lupin and lentil improvement.”
The conference was attended by a number of guest speakers from around the world, including Hakan Bahceci, Dubai-based President of the International Pulse Trade and Industries Confederation (CICILS IPTIC); Eric Johnson, a weed biologist from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada; and Dr Bunyamin Tar’an, a chickpea breeder from the University of Saskatchewan in Canada.
“Mr Bahceci told delegates that while Australia was a relative newcomer to the pulse industry, it had a role to play in satisfying global demand. He said we must maintain our focus on research and breeding to support an increase in the area planted to pulses and a reduction in input costs as this will assist Australia’s price competitiveness in bulk markets,” Dr Blanchard said.
“According to Mr Bahceci, opportunities also exist for Australian growers to attract higher prices for their crops based on protein levels. The use of high-protein lupin flour in biscuits for human consumption was one example of a new product in development that could have considerable spin-offs for growers here.”
Mr Bahceci and CICILS IPTIC are seeking United Nations declaration of 2016 as the “International Year of Pulses” – an initiative which is expected to generate recognition and further opportunities for the Australian industry.
Caption: At the Pulse Breeding Australia Inaugural Pulse Conference in Adelaide (SA) are NSW DPI plant pathologist Kurt Lindbeck (left) of Wagga Wagga (NSW); NSW DPI research chemist Jennifer Wood of Tamworth; and GRDC Southern Regional Panel deputy chair, Chris Blanchard.
Caption: At the pulse field day in Tarlee (SA) are Wayne Hawthorne (left), Pulse Australia southern industry development manager, and Hakan Bahceci, Dubai-based President of the International Pulse Trade and Industries Confederation (CICILS IPTIC).
Caption: GRDC Southern Regional Panel member and Mallala (SA) grain grower Richard Konzag (left) with Eric Johnson, a weed biologist from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, who spoke at the field day and conference on weed control in Western Canadian pulse crops.
Chris Blanchard, GRDC panel deputy chair
Sharon Watt, Porter Novelli