New processor contracts for organic peas

Roquette, which is building a plant in Manitoba, is confident it will be able to find enough supply from prairie growers

There might not be much now, but Roquette isn’t worried about finding thousands of tonnes of organic yellow peas.

The company’s Canadian grain buyer said once farmers see the demand from the new plant in Portage la Prairie, Man., they will produce what’s needed.

“We’re very confident that the grower base is there,” said Glen Last, a buyer at Roquette.

“We have a good contact list of growers…. I feel confident we’ll have our supply.”

The new $600 million plant is expected to be complete by the end of 2020 and has been contracting with conventional yellow pea growers for months for the new crop season.

The organic contract is starting small, looking to sign up only about 5,000 tonnes of crop for the 2021-22 crop year.

However, the company has hopes for expanding it as consumer demand surges.

“Consumers are more and more looking for organic products, natural products,” said Dominique Baumann, Roquette’s Canadian chief executive officer.

“So as that market grows for pea protein and our Nutralys brand, it will grow as needed.”

Encouraging organic production will take some effort because of much lower yields in organic production versus conventional.

In a session with reporters, Last wouldn’t offer specifics on prices or specifications.

“A lot of the details will be discussed directly with the grower,” said Last.

Manitoba produced fewer tonnes of organic yellow peas last year than Roquette will need this coming year, but the plant is located in Manitoba not for access to the crop, but for its transportation connections.

With most of Canada’s pulse production located in Saskatchewan, ample supplies are available just to the west. Most of it is not organic, but that could change.

“There seems to be a fair amount of interest in growers that were conventional and are on the road to becoming an organic grower,” said Last.

“Down the road it’s certainly going to be a sustainable supply.”Farmers are being offered one-year and two-year options for the contract.

Plant protein demand has been a major rising trend in the food industry in recent years. Plant proteins are used to replace or supplement animal proteins in many products, such as hamburgers, as well as being used for unique products.

Even during the pandemic, plant protein demand has kept up, said Baumann.

“It has not slowed down significantly,” said Baumann.

“This trend is still very, very strong despite the COVID.”

How much the organic plant protein market will grow is unclear, Baumann acknowledged. However, the plant’s design enables it to switch as much of its production into organic as necessary.

“We are starting very conservative, then it’s really answering the market needs.

“Technically, we can switch the whole plant to organic peas.”

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