2016 declared UN International Year of Pulses
GroundCover™ Issue: 110 | Author: Melissa Branagh-McConachy
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.
“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.
“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.
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* 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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