In a strategic move to fortify Canada’s position in the Chinese pulse market, Pulse Canada representatives, including Saskatchewan Pulse Growers (SPG), embarked on a trade mission to Beijing and Zhaoyuan from November 13 to 17, 2023. The delegation, including Pulse Canada President Greg Cherewyk, Chair Kevin Auch, Directors Shane Strydhorst and Greg Stamp, and SPG Executive Director Carl Potts, aimed to reconnect with Chinese customers, listen to their needs and challenges, and explore avenues for collaboration.

A key objective of our trade mission was to reconnect with Chinese customers.  With traveling to China made more difficult in recent years, the trip marked the first time since 2018 that Pulse Canada had visited the market in person. Our delegation sat down with China’s largest customers of Canadian peas with a genuine interest in listening to their concerns and understanding how the Canadian pulse industry can better serve their needs. We also had the opportunity to explore our common interest in building demand for pea protein and a wider range of pulses within China and agreed on areas for collaboration.

Another critical goal was to resurrect Canada’s application for market access for lentils, faba beans, chickpeas, and adzuki beans. Applications were filed in 2018 and have been in the queue for review since then.  In the meantime, there has been a growing interest amongst the food industry in this full range of pulses, so the delegation set out to learn what it could do to generate some awareness for the request for access.  Excellent contacts were made within the industry and with organizations that bridge industry interests with government agencies’ priorities, so we are confident we have a plan in place to put pulses on the agenda.

In support of the effort to build demand in China and gain access for a wider range of pulses, we were pleased to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the China Chamber of Commerce of Foodstuffs and Native Produce (CFNA). The CFNA is an important stakeholder in the Chinese market, representing the interests of key importers of Canadian peas. The signing of a MOU will help strengthen ties between Pulse Canada, CFNA and our respective member organizations, which really helps pave the way for enhanced collaboration and greater market access.

While there is a lot to unpack from our time in China, there are a few key takeaways of importance for growers:

  1. Russian peas are in the market: There is significant competition for Canada’s market position in the form of cheaper peas from Russia. This challenge, for the time being primarily affecting the feed peas segment, has the potential to be very disruptive if quality improves over time. Strategic efforts by the Canadian pulse industry will be imperative to safeguard Canada’s standing as the premier supplier of high-quality peas to the market.
  2. There is interest in collaboration to build demand for pea protein and other pulses: Despite increasing competition, there was significant interest from Chinese buyers in collaborating with Canada to build demand for pulses and pea protein. Exploring opportunities to blend pulse flours for enhanced nutrition and sustainability outcomes, as well as capitalizing on the growing pet food market, emerged as promising avenues for collaboration.
  3. Interest in faba beans: Chinese buyers expressed interest in a variety of pulses, with a specific focus on faba beans as a high protein ingredient with a neutral flavour profile. This interest is key as it will not only help drive demand for this important emerging crop, but it in the near term it will help support the effort to gain phytosanitary access to the Chinese market.

In sum, Pulse Canada’s trade mission to China provided valuable insights into the challenges we face and the opportunities we can pursue within the food and feed market. China is a market of great importance to the Canadian pulse industry and our delegation’s efforts to listen, to learn, to strengthen relationships, and to explore collaborative ventures were very well appreciated by our customers. Our team will be following up directly on immediate opportunities and developing a comprehensive plan that demonstrates our commitment to be the supplier of choice for China.