Federal Minister of Agriculture Lawrence MacAulay announces over half a million dollars in investment for pulse crop growers on Feb. 5, 2018 in Regina. Photo by Lynn Giesbrecht.

Saskatchewan farmers say the Federal Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food will need to do more than just invest cash to help local pulse crop growers struggling with tariffs recently imposed by India.

Lawrence MacAulay announced an investment of over $575,000 to help pulse growers do research and reach new markets.

“Growing new markets for pulses will take investment,” said MacAulay. “That is why I am proud to announce an investment of over half a million dollars to help Canada’s pulse industry explore new markets here at home and around the world.”

Local producers say the money might help, but many would like to see the minister focus on trade tariffs.

India is one of Canada’s top pulse importers and last November unexpectedly announced a 50 per cent tariff on all imported dry peas. This was followed by a 30 per cent tariff on lentils and chickpeas in December.

The minister said he recognizes there are issues in the pulse crop sector.

“The issue of tariffs on peas and chickpeas, we are all seeking a solution that works for Canada. We also continue to work with the pulse growers to remove the trade situation in India,” said MacAulay. “In a couple of weeks, the Prime Minister Trudeau will be in India and you can be well assured that this will be top of agenda.”

Some Saskatchewan pulse farmers are less optimistic about the trade situation with India. Lionel Fradette grows chickpeas, peas and lentils. He feels that the Minister of Agriculture did not do enough when India first introduced the tariffs. “We didn’t hear his name at all then, like nothing was being done,” Fradette said. “I just felt they could’ve done more to help the farmers out here, you know, just to offset what they did to us.”

Despite these trade issues Lee Moats, the Chair of Pulse Canada and Director of Saskatchewan Pulse Growers, says he can see the increasing popularity in pulse crops and the benefits they bring.

“World demand in places, particularly like India and China, has risen in the last couple of decades, and we’ve been well-positioned because of the work of ourselves and Sask Pulse Growers and universities and others to expand the acreage here,” Moats said. “The demand has pulled the production and, of course, when there’s high demand, there’s high price.”

Profitability isn’t the only upside to pulse crops. Moats was also quick to mention the environmental benefits. “They have been a very good paying crop, but they’re also good for our soil, so there’s a real environmental benefit to them,” he said. “I wish people knew that they can make a choice for using pulse crops to improve their own health and also to improve the health of the environment at the same time.”

Moats said Saskatchewan people have been slow to incorporate pulses into their daily diet, but that this is changing. “You may eat hummus yourself, but that’s an example of something that, even half a dozen years ago, hummus would not be on your grocery list or in your refrigerator, and in many refrigerators, it’s there now.”

The rise in demand and higher prices have encouraged farmers like Brent Hansen to get into pulse crops. Hansen is a local producer of chickpeas, lentils and peas. “It’s paid a lot of bills on our farm over the years and made us viable to keep going,” he said.

But Hansen isn’t sure this investment announcement will make a difference to the individual farmer in the sector. “Long term, not in the short term anyway, but way down the road hopefully it has a little difference. It’s not a big number that they’re investing, but every little bit helps.”

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