Thursday, 11 January 2018 10:37

Building new opportunities for pulse crop processing in Alberta and southwest Sask.

Written by  Jamie Rieger
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Chris Chivilo Chris Chivilo Contributed

There may be some glimmers of good news for pulse producers after some bad announcements out of India in November and December.


In November, India imposed a 50-percent tariff on Canadian peas and a few weeks later, a 30 percent duty on imports of lentils and chickpeas.
"The tariffs were not really surprising. India has done this before and for the last two years, they have had very, very good yields," said Chris Chivilo, president and CEO of WA Grain and Pulse Solutions, which has processing facilities in Alberta and Saskatchewan, as well as a new facility in Prince Edward Island.
As the tonnage of pulse crops being sent to India are dropping, other opportunities arise elsewhere, including right here at home and to the growing China market.
In mid-December following a trade mission to China, Pulse Canada's chief executive officer, Gord Bacon announced that an increase in pea demand in China could bode well for Canadian producers.
An expansion at a processing plant that already uses 400,000 tonnes of Canadian peas is expected to need additional 300,000 tonnes, starting this year.
This expansion is one of several being planned at processing plants in China because of a significant increase in consumer demand.
"With China, it has to do with population growth and a massive appetite for pulse products," said Chivilo. "They eat a lot of pork and they need the protein to feed their pigs. Well over one million tonnes of pulses are sent from Canada each year."
The biggest market in China for Canadian peas is the feed market, but it is also used in the protein and starch market and snack foods.
As Canadian agriculture leaders look to secure opportunities abroad, Chivilo and others are working to provide opportunities for producers here at home.
WA Grain and Pulse Solutions is a relatively new company, having started in 2007 by Chivilo and his wife, Tracey to buy and sell export green and yellow peas.
Since then, they have grown by leaps and bounds. In 2013, they purchased a processing facility in Vanguard and currently have five locations and third party contracts with 20 additional facilities in Alberta and Saskatchewan.
"We did some research with Leduc and those results will affect our layout and product. Some of the experiments went very well and we'll probably still do the pea/lentil splitting lines, but not the flour milling by itself. We need to reconfigure it," said Chivilo, adding they expect the results of the studies by the end of January.
"We already have most of the infrastructure designed," he said. "For the pet food, we'll do the cleaning and grinding. Then, the manufacturers buy from us. We shipped our first shipment for pet food in August."
The company also recently opened a $7-million pulse and grain handling plant in PEI to clean and bag pulses.
Chivilo said that the WA Grain processing facilities, as well as others in the works, will provide opportunities for pulse producers.
"Us, combined with others building processing plants, will help take away from exporting, One-half million tonnes will go into fractionating here once all of the plants are built," he said.
In 2014, according to profitguide.com, W.A. Grain was ranked 18th as one of Canada's fastest growing companies, according to profitguide.com.  The following year, the company was ranked fourth as one of Alberta's fastest growing companies, according to Alberta Venture

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