Canada’s pulse growers are sitting pretty when it comes to global marketing opportunities – that is, if they can get together and create a marketing strategy to get there.
That’s according to Dr. Bruce Scherr, CEO of Memphisbased Informa Economics. “There are phenomenal prospects our there, but the pulse industry is in need of a focused global strategy to make the most of it,” he said, speaking at Crop Production Week here in January.
Before pulse growers get too down on themselves, however, Scherr said the pulse industry isn’t the only agriculture group with this problem. Most farm groups, even highly-funded corn and soy, struggle to achieve a cohesive, industry-wide plan, he said.
A recent run-up in commodity prices and subsequent pull-back of the global economy isn’t all bad, either. Past boom-and-bust cycles, Scherr said, were due to major supply shortages.
This latest run-up in prices, however, is due to fundamental changes in demand. “Hundreds of thousands of people over the past few years have moved from subsistence to wage earning,” he said.
The good news is the fastest-growing and largest markets in the world, such as China, India, Brazil and other South American countries, already consume pulses as a major component of their diets. And their buying power is only going to grow.
Sure, the average person in China may still not make a lot by North American standards, but multiply any growth by hundreds of thousands of people and the economic opportunity is staggering.
To temper all this rosy talk of ever-expanding markets, Scherr does say there are a few things that could put the brakes on. There are risks: institutional failure, bad policy or corruption in foreign markets. “War or a pandemic, such as SARS or H1N1, where no one gets on a plane, could kill this,” Scherr says.
The bad news isn’t all that bad. This new global reality of shifted (and growing) demand shows no signs of slowing down. The imperative now is for pulse growers to get together, do the analysis and put a marketing plan together that makes the most of the opportunities out there.
“Find the people (who eat pulses) and follow the money,” Scherr said.