2016 declared UN International Year of Pulses

A man at a conference

Hakan Bahceci, president of CICILS IPTIC, at the Inaugural Pulse Conference, in Adelaide, 20 to 23 October 2013.

PHOTO: Brad Collis

The United Nations has officially pronounced 2016 the International Year of Pulses.

The declaration, handed down at the UN General Assembly in December, follows several years’ lobbying on behalf of the global pulse industry by the CICILS International Pulse Trade and Industries Confederation (CICILS IPTIC*).

CICILS IPTIC mounted a two-year campaign to support its vision for higher pulse production and consumption internationally.

Its bid to have 2016 declared the International Year of Pulses (IYOP) unanimously passed two votes at the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) meetings in Rome last year before the final declaration in New York.

CICILS IPTIC president Hakan Bahceci says the announcement represents an extraordinary opportunity for the global pulse industry.

Image of lupins on a machine

Chickpeas – one of the pulse crops the FAO wants to see in more dinner bowls around the world.

PHOTO: Brad Collis

“Beans, lentils, peas and chickpeas have been the cornerstone of global nutrition for centuries,” he says. “Having a UN-dedicated year will raise the level of awareness of pulses and the important role they can play in health and nutrition, food security and environmental sustainability.

“This is the greatest opportunity in a century to give pulses the attention they deserve. The International Year of Pulses will give pulses additional research attention and nutritional programming, which will lead to dietary uptake.”

Addressing Pulse Breeding Australia’s inaugural conference in Adelaide, in October 2013, Mr Bahceci said the CICILS IPTIC bid was underpinned by two distinct influences. The first was global food security (including base-level nutrition deficiencies in poor communities) and the second was the increasingly recognised role of pulses in combating chronic health conditions such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease in western cultures.

Mr Bahceci said while consumption in western cultures was low, a large body of research had now confirmed that nutrient-rich pulses (also embodying characteristics such as satiation) can help to prevent or reduce the incidence of obesity, diabetes and heart disease. He said this was generating new, and growing, demand from health and functional foods markets.

In parallel to this, he said regions beset by food shortages also represent a potentially huge untapped market – although a much more price-sensitive one.

Image of assorted lupins in petrie dishes

The development of lupins as a human food ingredient is an example of the increasing interest in making greater use of pulse crops.

PHOTO: Evan Collis

“There are over one billion people in the Indian subcontinent and sub-Saharan Africa for whom pulses of one sort or another are a basic staple, along with a cereal such as rice. These people live on less than half of what the FAO considers necessary for normal human development,” he said. “If they could afford it, they would double their pulse consumption or more.”

Mr Bahceci rated these opportunities presented by IYOP as among the most exciting that have presented to the global pulse industry: “And Australia has the chance to be a major player.”

While it will be several months before the lead agency role is formally assigned by FAO and an international multi-stakeholder committee formed, CICILS IPTIC has put in place an interim committee to communicate with global members and the broader industry to ensure they are given an opportunity to share in the benefits the IYOP is expected to deliver.

“The committee has already adopted a draft vision and mission, pending approval by the FAO, and is working to engage all industry sectors to further develop draft goals to be taken to the FAO for approval,” Mr Bahceci said.

This “vision and mission” will include global food security, in particular the need to improve nutrition for the bottom of the global health and wealth pyramid; and development of new and different pulse-based food products to meet western tastes.
Mr Bahceci said the goal was to double global pulse production over 10 years.

He said CICILS had committed US$1.1 million (A$1.2 million) of its own funds to an IYOP trust and supporting governments had pledged further financial contributions to the FAO. “We anticipate upwards of US$25 million [A$26.6 million] will eventually be raised to achieve the draft goals,” he said.

The interim committee has nominated four preliminary research themes to be pursued: market access and trade; production and food security; health, nutrition and food innovation; and environmental sustainability.

An open-platform Pulse Innovation Partnership (PIP) has already been formed between the private and public sectors to work on developments in health, nutrition and food innovation. Established by the McGill University Centre for the Convergence of Health and Economics in Canada, PIP aims to increase consumption of pulses through their integration into nutritious processed foods.

Pulse Australia CEO Tim Edgecombe and board member Sanjiv Dubey, both CICILS executive committee members, are coordinating the Australian industry’s involvement.

Mr Bahceci expressed gratitude to both the GRDC and the Australian Government for their strong support of the IYOP bid.

Leadership role for Pulse Australia

The potential benefits to the Australian pulse industry arising from the International Year of Pulses (IYOP) are enormous, according to Pulse Australia (PA) CEO Tim Edgecombe.

Mr Edgecombe says there has been considerable support for the IYOP bid among partner organisations with an interest in all aspects of pulse production, marketing, processing and consumption.

He says a range of research, engagement and communication activities will be initiated for the 2016 IYOP to promote the full value of pulses in achieving healthy nourishment, food security and sustainable agriculture globally.

“Partners from the food industry, global companies, foundations, national organisations, governments and individuals are enthusiastic about being involved in this project and we expect many great innovations to result from this type of exposure and investment,” he says. 

Industry initiatives will be developed for 2016 and beyond, across the four proposed research themes: market access and trade; production and food security; health, nutrition and food innovation; and environmental sustainability.

Mr Edgecombe says PA will coordinate a national committee to work with government, growers, non-government organisations, retailers, food manufacturers, health and science organisations, and United Nations bodies to make the IYOP a success in Australia, and to contribute to raising the profile of pulse crops and foods globally.

With rates of diabetes and obesity on the rise around the world, Mr Edgecombe says IYOP presents an opportunity to recognise pulses’ exceptional potential to add taste and nutrition to modern diets.

“2016 will also be an occasion to learn about the world’s wonderful pulse culinary traditions, and to discover new ways to create great tasting, healthier foods in the future.”

Pulse Australia will establish a steering committee this year that will coordinate major initiatives and events for 2016.

More information:

Peter Wilson, Pulse Australia chair
0417 541 174

More information:

Hakan Bahceci

Tim Edgecombe
0425 717 133

* CICILS IPTIC is the single not-for-profit peak body for the global pulse industry. A confederation of 19 national associations including Pulse Australia, it also has more than 600 private sector members from a broad spectrum of industry value-chain sectors.


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