Global Pulse Day is being celebrated across the world this Saturday, February 10, and national grain farmers’ representative body GrainGrowers has urged Australians to consider the humble bean and include more pulses in their daily diet - not just for the range of health benefits pulses have to offer, but also to improve soil quality in Australia.
GrainGrowers chairman, John Eastburn, said that grain farmers produce around two to three million tonnes of pulses annually.
“Pulses grown in Australia are a fascinating range of colours and sizes. They include Chickpea, Lentils, Faba and Broad Bean, Mungbean, Lupin, and Field Pea. Others are adzuki beans, cow peas, black beans and vetch,” Mr Eastburn said.
"I grow cow pea and lupin myself as a break crop."
Pulses are used in both livestock feed rations and as a human food source. Indeed, pulses are universally recommended as part of a healthy diet and feature prominently in diets of some of the longest-lived human cultures in the world.
“The Nielsen market research company noted last year that the increasing interest in pulses goes beyond those people following a vegetarian or vegan diet,” said Mr Eastburn.
“Consumers in Australia and around the world are increasingly identifying pulses as good sources of protein, iron, folate, zinc, potassium and fibre, among others.”
Mr Eastburn said that about 60 per cent of Australian pulses are exported overseas, mainly for human consumption.Top markets include India, Bangladesh, Egypt, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
“Strong international demand for Australian pulses, in particular for chickpeas and lentils in India, has helped drive recent expansion in the Australian pulse production sector,” Mr Eastburn said.
Australia exported nearly 1.2 million tonnes of Chickpeas to India in 2016/17, up from just 457 thousand tonnes five years earlier. During the past five years India has bought more than 50 per cent of Australia’s pea and chickpea crops, nearly 40 per cent of Australia’s mungbeans and 20 per cent of Australian lentils.
But Mr Eastburn said that unfortunately, recent trade restrictions by the Indian government threatened future exports.
“Governments around the world should be seeking to increase the consumption and trade in pulses, not stifle it,” Mr Eastburn said.
Nevertheless, there is plenty of opportunity for consumers in Australia to eat more pulses in their everyday diets.
“The result would be a win-win for Australians, farmers and the environment,” said Mr Eastburn.
“Pulse crops help farmers break disease cycles and naturally fix soil nitrogen. They are integral to improved environmental sustainability of farming systems in Australia and abroad.”
This is the third Global Pulse Day celebrated across the world to recognise the importance of this food source for millions of people around the world. Global Pulse Day 2017 saw 225 events celebrated in 63 countries across the world.