World of opportunity for Sask.

Saskatchewan’s deputy agriculture minister says she has no doubt an ongoing trade mission to India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka will result in greater export opportunities for pulse growers.

Speaking from Dhaka, Bangladesh, on Friday, Alanna Koch said the Saskatchewan pulse delegation

is spreading the message the province is ready to meet the region’s growing demand for peas and lentils.

“I don’t have any question in my mind that the opportunity is here and the relationship is here, so I do believe that more business will be done,” Koch said.

The pulse group, which includes representatives of Saskatchewan Pulse Growers (SPG), the Saskatchewan Trade and Export Partnership, the Canadian Grain Commission and several pulse businesses in addition to Koch, is among a group of nearly 100 Saskatchewan business people and government officials on a wide-ranging trade mission in India and surrounding countries.

Koch said the pulse delegation she is part of is specifically working to maintain and build new trade relationships in the three countries, although Koch will return to Saskatchewan prior to the Sri Lanka arm of the trip.

There’s opportunity to increase pulse exports to all countries, she said, but specifically to India, which has a four-million tonne shortfall between the 17 million tonnes of pulse crops it produces annually and the 21 million tonnes of pulses it consumes.

India is Saskatchewan’s fourth-largest export nation for agricultural commodities, Koch said. In 2009, India bought $535 million worth of Saskatchewan crops, $345 million of which were for yellow peas and $180 million for lentils.

“It’s a perfect match. We have a natural rela-tionship,” Koch said of the pulse partnership. “We are already their primary supplier here in India of our peas and lentils and we know that it’s an expanding economy.

“We’re here to kind of shore-up the relationship that we already have and then, obviously, grow it.”

TRIP TO BANGLADESH, SRI LANKA

Koch said she is certain Saskatchewan has the capacity to meet a higher demand for pulse crops, which also includes beans.

She is also confident the remainder of the pulse mission, which ends March 20, will be as successful as the first portion of the trip. The delegation arrived in India on March 5, is currently in Bangladesh, and will return to India prior to travelling to Sri Lanka.

“We know there’s opportunity, we want them to come to us first and we’re saying, ‘We’ll be there, we can be your solution for food security, we can be your solution for nutrition.’ “

The SPG reported this week the results of a report, showing green lentils grown in Sask-atchewan can be used in traditional Indian cuisine and would be accepted by Indian customers.

The results follow a $264,000 lentil research project, funded by the SPG, that saw researchers from the Tamil Nadu Agricultural University (TNAU) in Coimbatore, India, develop and test market traditional southern Indian foods using the green lentils.

“The project, set up by the SPG and the University of Saskatchewan, estimated that green lentils could capture up to 20 per cent of the imported pigeon pea market (or 200,000 tonnes annually) for a potential annual market impact of $160 million if research and development showed that green lentils could supplement pigeon pea in Indian cuisine,” said Kofi Agblor, the SPG’s research director.

“TNAU has proven this so we need to capture that market.”

Last year, 3.7 million tonnes of Saskatchewan’s pulse crops were sent to foreign markets.

ckyle@thestarphoenix.com

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