In the spring of 2018 the Processors and Growers Research Organisation (PGRO) has released a “Blueprint for UK Pulses in a post-Brexit world’ to present its proposals for meeting the challenge of future funding for UK agriculture.
"More than ever, the UK needs to focus on sustainability, the environment and public good, and in this context, pulses are under-represented,2 says Roger Vickers, Chief Executive of PGRO. "The changes and challenges of Brexit present an opportunity for growers, researchers and traders to realise the full potential of pulses (protein crops/legumes such as dry peas and beans/vegetable legumes).
"There are key benefits to be gained as the evidence for pulses and the environment shows clearly that their inclusion in farming rotations significantly improves biodiversity, crop productivity and soil fertility - while reducing greenhouse gas emissions and pollution.
"Enormous quantities of soya and other oilseeds are consumed in the UK animal feed industry annually and this is the main cause of the annual protein deficit. Increased UK pulse production can significantly offset this trading and environmental imbalance.
"By educating and giving a lead to dietary change to include a greater proportion of vegetable protein in the form of pulses and pulse-derived ingredients, there is a huge opportunity to bring major societal and economic benefits and reduction in health care costs."
There are challenges to realising these benefits, acknowledges Mr Vickers. Supply and demand in the UK market is inconsistent and not accurately reported, hampering market development. Also, the niche crop status of pulses has traditionally minimised commercial investment and limited productivity improvements. Further, decades of policy focus on oilseeds and cereals - with the lack of any UK protein policy - has severely limited public funding for research to enhance genetic variability, pulse crop diversification and value in the legume supply chain.
However, PGRO is confident that the UK can achieve the benefits of having a strong and healthy pulse sector, and the report proposes ten strategic actions: