A brief rundown of the 52nd annual CICILS/GPC convention held in Las Vegas last month.

By Dario Bard

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This year’s CICILS/GPC World Pulses Convention in Las Vegas saw record attendance, with some 980 delegates from nearly 50 countries on hand. And that’s not counting surprise appearances from Elvis, Marilyn Monroe and the Rat Pack!

Held at the luxurious Caesar’s Palace Hotel from April 12th to the 15th, the event’s success is a testament to the momentum building behind the International Year of Pulses (IYOP) in 2016, as well as CICILS/GPC’s standing as the preeminent international pulse industry body.

Alexis Taylor, Deputy Undersecretary for Farm and Foreign Agriculture Services at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) opened the convention and noted that the pulse trade is expanding throughout the world, with U.S. pulse exports in 2014 up 22% to a record 1.3 million MT. Global demand, she said, is trending upward as consumer incomes and demand for quality protein sources increase. Taylor also underscored the importance of the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership to facilitate trade across the oceans.

Next, outgoing CICILS President Hakan Bahceci took the floor and spoke of the accomplishments under his tenure and of the need for the organization to embrace change. For example, he mentioned the organization’s name change from CICILS to GPC (Global Pulse Confederation) to encompass the industry’s entire value chain, and the emergence of the next generation of pulse industry leaders and the organization’s creation of the Global Pulse Confederation’s Young Professionals (GPCYP) in 2012. These and other changes realized under Bahceci’s leadership have positioned the industry to take full advantage of the opportunities IYOP is bound to generate in 2016 and beyond.

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Photo: Outgoing CICILS/GPC President Hakan Bahceci

An important piece of the IYOP effort is the creation of the pulse brand. Following Bahceci’s remarks, attendees were treated to a sneak peek of the branding work undertaken by the Leo Burnett advertising agency. Those not present will have to wait for the official launch on November 18th in New York City. Until then, the pulse brand is to remain under wraps.

With palpable excitement in the air from the pulse brand preview, the panel sessions got underway. A brief recap of each session follows.

The Future of Food

The first session looked at food industry consumption trends and the emergence of new pulse-based products throughout the world. Nirvana Chapman of the MINTEL Group research firm opened the discussion by noting consumer interest in healthy, natural, environmentally-friendly foods. Protein is a hot item in the food industry, she said, and noted that the use of pea protein in particular has taken off in the snack food and sauces and seasoning sectors, with increases of 151% and 200% respectively over the past five years. The snack segment is seeing particularly strong growth in India. In addition to peas, chickpeas and lentils are also gaining favor with food manufacturers.

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Other speakers included: Dr. John Sievenpiper of the University of Toronto, who spoke about the important role pulses can play in addressing the triple threat to global human health posed by obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease; Erika Smith of General Mills, one of the world’s largest food companies, who covered the range of food products that include pulses and stated that pulses are strategic to the future of food; and Murad Al Katib of AGT Food and Ingredients, Canada, who spoke about the opportunities and challenges presented by fractioning, and also challenged the industry to shift the public’s thinking from breadbasket to protein basket.

A Value Chain Perspective

Andrew Jacobs of Poortman Ltd. moderated the second panel, and set the tone by defining the key challenge facing the entire pulse industry’s value chain in the Information Age: How to add value for the customer?

Alan De Brauw of CGIAR’s International Policy Research Institute delivered the research perspective. He saw pulses adding value to consumers as a healthy and nutritious food, and to smallholder farmers thanks to their nitrogen fixation properties.

Aidin Milani of equipment-manufacturer Buhler noted that in traditional pulse consuming countries like India, Buhler’s challenge is to increase efficiencies, whereas in non-traditional pulse consuming countries, such as the U.S., Buhler works with retailers to increase consumption.

Lastly, Michelle Broom of Australia’s Grains & Legumes Nutrition Council discussed consumer trends in her country, where pulses are starting to be viewed as more than just a protein source for vegetarians. Celebrity chefs, she said, are leading an early adopter trend.

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Devil is in the Detail! How well do you know your contracts?

Moderated by Iman Reda of GEDCO, and with a panel that included Neville Hopper of Mills & Co., and Jonathan Waters and Jaine Chisholm of GAFTA, this panel examined GAFTA’s dispute resolution mechanism and debunked some common myths. For instance, despite a common perception to the contrary, hashing out differences through GAFTA is actually cheaper and quicker than going through the courts. Apparently, more and more industry members are becoming privy to this fact, as GAFTA has seen its arbitration caseload grow by 30%, with more than 200 cases brought before the organization every year. The panel also noted that disputes have grown in complexity with greater monetary amounts involved than ever before.

IYOP Themes

This panel provided an update on progress in IYOP’s four theme areas: food and nutrition security and innovation; market access and stability; productivity and environmental sustainability; and creating awareness.

Gordon Bacon of Pulse Canada opened the discussion by reminding attendees of IYOP’s overarching goal: to increase pulse production and consumption by 10% by 2020. To date, he said, there are 31 national committees in place working towards this end.

Reporting on progress in the food and nutrition security and innovation theme area, Michael Baum of ICARDA mentioned involvement in a number of conferences, a global pulses food product competition and the possible establishment of a Global Pulse Nutrition Society to further research and collaboration on pulse nutrition.

Georgie Aley of the Australian Institute of Food Science and Technology reported on progress in the creating awareness theme area and mentioned, among other things, the establishment of the IYOP.net website as a depository for IYOP resources, including a photo bank and documents library, and the creation of a six-lesson plan educational program for primary school students.

Dr. Noel Ellis of CGIAR reported on the work of the productivity and sustainability committee, highlighting a schedule of conferences and stressing the importance of genome sequencing to research aimed at increasing productivity.

Pravin Dongre of Glencore Grain, India updated the audience on progress in the market access area. He highlighted participation in Codex Alimentarius meetings and efforts aimed at addressing barriers to market access, such as price information gaps and bottlenecks.

Pulse Innovation Platform

The Pulse Innovation Platform is an international forum that aims to become the convening body for pulse-based food innovations. The panel was moderated by Chris Lannon of Canada’s McGill Center.

Panelists included:

  • Laurette Dube of the McGill Center, who emphasized the need for food innovators to collaborate with producers and consider human behavior when creating products;
  • Lee Moats of Saskatchewan Pulse Growers, who made the point that farmers are willing to adapt to food industry changes and will do so if they are given the right market signals;
  • Phil Donne of the Campbell Company of Canada and Kellogg Canada, who discussed the benefits the Pulse Innovation Platform offers to both large and small food companies;
  • Ajay Markanday of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, who declared cereal crop production unsustainable when it comes to feeding a population of 9 billion people, and called for a return to indigenous pulse crops that are far more conducive to the agricultural zones of the developing world and far more water efficient, as well;
  • John McDermott of CGIAR, who spoke about the challenge of fragmented markets, particularly in the developing world, and the need to link business and social goals;
  • Dr. Noel Ellis of CGIAR, who related how pulse crops were removed from the historically beneficial cereal-legume combination by the innovation of nitrogen fertilizers, and the need for innovation today to return them to their rightful place;
  • and outgoing CICILS/GPC President Hakan Bahceci of Agro DMCC, who spoke of the role of innovation in achieving IYOP’s goal to increase global pulse consumption, and said the Pulse Innovation Platform represents the industry’s answer to the call he made to think bigger following the UN’s declaration of 2016 as the International Year of Pulses.
 
 

GPCYP Meets Up! Building the Youth for the Future!

This session was led by the GPCYP’s five coordinators. Elyce Simpson of Simpson Seeds opened the discussion by recapping the GPCYP’s history. She was followed by Faisal Majeed of Bombi’s Group, who explained the purpose of the group and its eligibility requirements (any pulse industry member under the age of 35), and unveiled the official GPCYP logo. Mattia Pedon of ACOS announced the launch of the group’s Facebook page and Twitter feed.

Iman Reda of GEDCO then introduced the GPCYP mentors (Tyler Thorpe of Agricom, Cindy Brown of Chippewa Valley Bean, David Lever of Advanced Seed, Gordon Bacon of Pulse Canada and Remo Pedon of ACOS) and posed questions to them regarding the involvement of youth in CICILS/GPC and IYOP. Last but not least, Atheeqe Ansari of Emco picked up on Hakan Bahceci’s earlier announcement that GPCYP was given full voting membership on the GPC executive committee, and pointed out that giving the new generation a voice at the highest levels of the organization will likely attract more young people to the industry.

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Photo (left to right): Faisal Majeed, Elyce Simpson, Mattia Pedon, Iman Reda, Atheeqe Ansari, and Cindy Brown
Gala Dinner

At the convention’s gala dinner, diners were not only regaled by Marilyn Monroe and the Rat Pack, but also highly entertained by Randy Duckworth of the U.S. Dry Bean Council and Phil Hinrichs of Hinrichs Trading Company, who teamed up to emcee an auction that raised more than US$ 125,000 for IYOP.

Stay tuned for IFT’s separate coverage of the convention’s global dry bean, chickpea, dry pea and lentil outlooks.

Photos and video in this article are courtesy of CICILS Global Pulse Confederation
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Dario Bard, IFT Journalist