Pea growers are on the verge of seeing a massive new market materialize in their own backyard.
If all the proposed pea fractionation and ethanol plants are built over the next couple of years, it will create 750,000 tonnes of new demand for the crop.
Carl Potts, executive director of Saskatchewan Pulse Growers, said that would be the third biggest market for the crop behind India and China.
India bought 1.33 million tonnes of peas in 2016, while China bought one million tonnes. The next biggest customer was Bangladesh at 290,878 tonnes.
Pulse ingredient processing facilities are suddenly all the rage on the Canadian Prairies.
In September, Academy Award winning film director James Cameron unveiled his Verident Foods Inc. fractionation plant in Vanscoy, Sask. The plant is already operating and will process 160,000 tonnes of yellow peas once at full capacity.
That is the latest in a growing list of projects that is reminiscent of the start of the canola crushing renaissance.
Roquette, a French plant-based ingredient maker, is building the world’s largest pea protein factory in Portage la Prairie, Man. The $400 million facility will use up to 250,000 tonnes of peas a year starting in 2019.
A German company called Canadian Protein Innovation plans to build a $75 million pea fractionation plant in Moose Jaw, Sask., which will process 100,000 tonnes of peas a year into starch, protein and fibre.
W.A. Grain and Pulse Solutions is building a $15 million addition to its processing plant in Bowden, Alta., which will have a flour mill, dry and wet fractionation lines and eventually a pet food ingredients plant. The first phase is expected to be operational next year. The plant will consume 100,000 tonnes of peas and lentils once at full capacity.
Prairie Green Renewable Energy intends to build a $325 million ethanol plant in Clavet, Sask., which will use feed barley and feed peas to produce 196 million litres of the fuel annually. The plant would use 136,000 tonnes of peas a year starting in 2020.
The proposed plants, if all built, would create a new domestic market for 746,000 tonnes of pulses a year, with the vast majority of that being yellow peas.
“It’s very significant,” said Potts.
He said the proposed plants would go a long way toward meeting Pulse Canada’s goal of creating new demand for 25 percent of annual pulse production by 2025.
The domestic demand is materializing at a time when Canada is facing stiff competition from the Black Sea region, where pulse production is rising.
Potts said the demand is coming from food companies that are eager to incorporate plant-based protein into products to create healthier and more sustainable food.
It is no longer a matter of having to convince them about the health and environmental benefits of using pulses.
“They say, ‘we’re there. How do we get them into our products and what’s the available supply?’ ”
Potts said all of the proposed plants may not come to fruition but others are likely in the pipeline, and that’s a good thing.
“That will be helpful in furthering market development because companies may be more interested in making the switch and inclusion if they know there are multiple suppliers,” he said.
Adding 750,000 tonnes of domestic demand could help stabilize pea markets because it would be more consistent and less price sensitive than what exists in export markets, said Potts.
As well, it eliminates the logistical risk factor of getting product to the West Coast for export.
He thinks the food ingredient plants could be paying a premium for peas because they are being used to create a high-value product, and if that’s the case it could result in a surge in pea acres.
Most of the proposed projects will use yellow peas as the raw material primarily because they are the cheapest pulse, but Potts believes fababeans will be another popular ingredient once farmers grow enough acres because they produce more protein per acre than peas.