Lentil processors told profit lies in tender loving care

Red lentils receive an oil polish at the Goze processing plant in Mersin, Turkey.  |  Sean Pratt photo

CESME, Turkey — Pulse processors could be getting more bang for their buck if they used the right equipment and processes, says a major manufacturer.

Surojit Basu, global product manager for Buhler Group, said 10 to 15 percent of a pulse is husk and the rest is endosperm.

“Theoretically, we should get 85 to 90 percent of yield but actually the industry average is like 65 to 75 percent,” he told delegates and media attending a reception at the 2016 Global Pulse Convention.

Basu said it is unrealistic to expect processors to completely eliminate losses but with proper design and equipment, Buhler is able to remove bottlenecks and increase efficiency.

“We can easily achieve close to 80 to 82 percent on average,” he said.

Even a two- to three-percentage point increase in yield can have a significant impact on the bottom line.

“If you calculate the total productivity over a year, it is a mind-blowing figure,” said Basu.

Huseyin Arslan, president of the Global Pulse Confederation, said there is growing demand for vegetable-based protein, so anything that boosts pulse processing efficiency is welcome.

“The past 15 to 20 years have seen great advances in pulse processing technology and solutions,” he said.

“Where we were up to 30 years ago to where we are now in the industry is just incredible and this is reflected in the volumes of pulses being produced, processed and shipped globally.”

Basu said the challenge is to increase yield while reducing the plant’s energy consumption.

The hulling process typically accounts for 30 to 40 percent of the plant’s total energy bill.

Buhler’s patented Pulsroll hulling machine is able to increase processing capacity while reducing energy consumption and the amount of broken seeds.

Basu said customers are fussy about the appearance of the lentils they buy. Ninety percent of red lentils are hulled and split.

“It is important that the appearance of the hulled and split product is really good with sharp edges. Customers prefer it that way,” he said.

Green lentils are consumed whole with the skin on, so it is important that the skin is not damaged during processing.

Many processors polish the lentils before packaging them to give the product a nicer appearance. Basu said the conventional technique uses a leather polisher but that is unhygienic.

Buhler has developed a non-leather polisher. The machine is in the testing phase and should be available by the end of 2016.

Basu said one area of pulse processing that needs improvement is dealing with the byproduct, which currently has little value.

He said 20 percent of the pulse is being sold at prices below what the plant pays for the raw material.

“We have to do something about that,” said Basu.

Beatrice Conde-Petit, a food scientist and technologist for Buhler, said the byproduct is high in fibre.

She believes that in the future the byproduct will be finely milled or fermented and sold as a food ingredient that will boost the fibre levels of various food products.

“But in my view there is still a lot of work to do to extract more value from byproducts,” she said.

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