14 November 1997

BEPAaims to find right market for right pulse

By Robert Harris

OVER-ZEALOUS marketing of pulse varieties which prove unsuitable for expected end markets will be stopped thanks to a new British Edible Pulse Association initiative.

Growers who harvested 4000ha of marrowfat pea Celica in 1996 saw hopes of canning premiums dashed as most crops ended up in feed bins, says Anthony Church, president of BEPAs pea evaluation panel. A smaller area suffered the same fate this year. The variety has now been effec-tively withdrawn from general use.

"Celica was totally unsuitable for canning. Financially, it was a big embarrassment for everyone concerned," he comments.

The BEPA panel, which started work this harvest, will also make growers more aware of, and generate more interest in, end markets, he adds. Data on which varieties suit which markets will appear in this years NIAB Pulse Variety Handbook.

Varieties will have to prove themselves on a commercial scale before being recommended as a match for a particular market, he adds.

Over the past two seasons, semi-leafless Celica gave feed pea-type yields, but broke down unacceptably when canned. "They were found to be soft and unsuitable," says Cathy Knott of the Processors and Growers Research Organisation.

Gerry Cook, managing director of Seed Innovations, marketing agent for Cebeco varieties including Celica, says the company will not promote the variety next year. "I have left end-users to decide their position after the 1997 harvest. It appeared that every single crop grown for canning in 1996 had to be turned down. It seems end users are retaining their view that they dont like the variety. If NIAB decides to withdraw it, that will be fine."

However, Van de Bergh foods, which contracted about 4% of its pea area to Celica last season for mushy pea production, may stick with the variety. "We have come to an agreement," says Mr Cook.

New varieties will be marketed differently, he adds. Historically, marrowfat varieties have been introduced using PGRO information.

That organisations samples are harvested at the right time and handled gently, not necessarily reflecting commercial practice, Mr Cook believes. "It could be said that is no longer the way to do it. End users like to see commercial crops. I must be 100% certain that is the case before we market a new marrowfat." &#42

New varieties must be treated cautiously until there is enough information on market suitability, says the PGROs Cathy Knott.