Pulses are the edible dry seeds of leguminous plants. They are of special nutritional and economic importance due to their contribution to the diets of millions of people worldwide. The main importance of pulses lies primarily in their high protein content (two to three times higher than most cereals) as well as in being a valuable source of energy. In addition, pulses contain good amounts of nutritionally essential minerals such as calcium and iron. The use of pulses as food is concentrated in developing countries, accounting for about 90 percent of global human pulse consumption. In most low income countries, pulses contribute about 10 percent of the daily protein and about 5 percent of energy intakes in the diets of people.
World production of pulses has exhibited an upward trend in recent years with most of the increase coming from North America and Asia. In 2000, however, production dropped by nearly 2 million tonnes from the previous year to around 55 million tonnes, with the bulk of the reduction accounted for by Australia, France and India. Global production in 2001 is forecast to recover from the previous year and reach 58million tonnes. Global pulse utilization would also rise and, in 2001, is forecast to reach some 57 million tonnes. World trade in pulses in 2001 is forecast to expand, driven by higher demand from the Middle East, North Africa, Central America and the Indian subcontinent. This could lead to higher international pulse prices this
season, though the price outlook would also depend on economic conditions and the prospects for any significant recovery in cereal prices.
Pulses are of special importance for the low-income food-deficit countries (LIFDCs) where the major sources of proteins and energy are non-animal products. Pulse production in LIFDCs in 2001 is expected to increase, with the bulk of the rise accounted for by major producing countries like India and China. Other countries like Egypt, Nigeria and Burundi are also expected to post some production gains. In contrast, smaller crops are expected in countries like Pakistan and Syria due to drought. LIFDCs' 2001 pulse use is expected to outpace production, especially in such traditional consuming countries as India and Pakistan. With demand exceeding production, total pulse imports by LIFDCs are seen to rise in 2001.
Between 1991 and 2000, LIFDCs' pulse production grew by an annual rate of 1.9 percent to reach a record of nearly 31 million tonnes in 1999 before dropping to 29 million tonnes in 2000. India and China lead the world in pulse production with 24.6 and 8.4 percent shares, respectively. Without India and China, the share of LIFDCs in global pulse production falls from some 50 percent to about 20 percent. The growth in
LIFDCs' pulse production was due more to expansion in area (1.3 percent per annum) than gains in yields (0.6 percent per annum). LIFDCs account for large shares in the production of several major pulses: chick-peas and broad beans (80 percent each) and dry beans and lentils (50 percent each). They also increased their share in global dry pea production from 15 to 20 percent. Minor pulses like cow peas and pigeon peas are almost exclusively grown in LIFDCs.
During the 1990s, LIFDCs pulse utilization increased by an annual rate of 2 percent, reaching 32 million tonnes in 1999. This compares to a global growth rate of 0.3 percent per annum. About 75 percent of pulse utilization in LIFDCs is for human consumption, while feed use represents less than 15 percent. Per caput consumption of pulses as food in LIFDCs has remained almost unchanged over the past decade at about 6.5 kg per year, against an average of 7.2 kg per year during 1989/90. The drop in per caput pulse consumption is due to several factors including slow growth of production, inadequate imports and increased availability of other commodities like cereals and animal products at more affordable prices. Between 1991 and 1999, pulse consumption as food in LIFDCs increased by 1.7 million tonnes, or 8 percent, to 23.5 million tonnes. Dry beans and chick-peas
account for the largest share of pulses consumed as food in LIFDCs, with figures of 6.3 million tonnes each in 1999, followed by pigeon peas (2.5 million tonnes).
Imports of pulses by the LIFDCs are estimated at some 2.5 million tonnes, representing over 30 percent of global pulse imports. Between 1990 and 1999, total pulse imports by this group of countries grew by 6 percent annually, reflecting the slow growth of domestic production relative to the rising demand. Dry beans used to be the largest imported pulse by LIFDCs until recently when dry peas took this position. The increase in dry pea imports resulted mostly from larger purchases by India and Bangladesh. Lentils, chick-peas and broad beans also are significant items in the LIFDCs' pulse purchases. Among LIFDCs, Bangladesh, India and Pakistan are the major pulse importers, with Myanmar being their main supplier. Egypt is a large importer of broad beans, mostly from Australian origin. On the export side, a major development has been the emergence of China as a strong exporter of dry beans in particular, overtaking Myanmar who use to dominate the world market. Cuba, Egypt and Indonesia have become important export markets for China's products.