Prairie pulse processing boom will help in long run

Winnipeg — With one new pulse processing plant online in Western Canada and more on the way, pulse growers will still have to wait to see the marketing effects of these new ventures.

In the last year, numerous pulse processing plants have been announced. French company, Roquette, broke ground on a C$400 million pea processing plant in Portage la Prairie, Man. in September 2017. That same month, Academy Award-winning film director James Cameron announced he would invest in a multimillion-dollar pea processing plant in Vanscoy, Sask. There was also news of possible pea processing facilities to be built in Moose Jaw, Sask. and Alberta.

Since then the Vanscoy plant, Verdient Foods, has come online. According to the company’s website Verdient plans to increase its annual production to more than 160,000 tonnes.

“We’re hopeful in the next couple of years that (these new plants) will be translating into maybe about 600,000 tonnes of new demand overall per year,” said Carl Potts, executive director of Saskatchewan Pulse Growers. He said currently only one of those new plants is operating.

Last fall, Roquette said it tentatively would open by mid-year 2019. When contacted on May 29, James Bozikis, head of communications with Roquette, said the plan now is to be operational by 2020.

“Everything is full speed ahead… we just announced… we expanded our plant in Vic-sur-Aisne, France, for its pea processing production. And that’s part of our overall strategy to be a leader in that market in pea protein,” he said.

Since the flurry of pulse processing plant announcements, Canada has found itself facing pulse crop marketing issues. Over the winter, India placed import tariffs on peas, chickpeas and lentils, all but stopping Canada’s pulse exports to its largest customer.

Pulse producer organizations are optimistic that in the long-term the pulse processing plants will improve domestic demand for pulses. Overall in North America, the public is shifting to consumption of more plant-based proteins.

“To me, it’s part of a shift that’s underway and how quickly does it have a significant impact on the Canadian industry. Wellprobably not as quickly as the significant decline in imports from India, but it’s not like one was going to replace the other immediately,” said Gordon Bacon, chief executive officer of Pulse Canada.

Canada isn’t the only country to see a flurry of pulse processing plant announcements. Bacon said he knows of at least eight or nine pulse processing plants that have been announced in the United States.

ADM announced that it is building a pea processing plant in North Dakota. Cargill has formed a partnership with PURIS, a family-run company, to research pea protein.

“We think that additional processing capacity, be it on this side of the border or on the U.S. side is good and it’s likely that that can help too, sort of raise the market for all of those ingredients,” Potts said.

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