An Interview with Huseyin Arslan, GPC Outgoing President
In 2015, Huseyin Arslan was elected President of the Global Pulse Confederation. He served for two terms with a clear goal in mind: “When I became President of the GPC, pulses were the orphan crop of agriculture. I wanted to change that,” Mr. Arslan says.
Such an ambitious quest required effort in two main areas: the sharing of synergy with global organizations and government agencies to raise awareness about the benefits of pulses for people and for the planet; and the providing of tools to enhance clarity and predictability in global trade.
The outcome of this dual approach can be seen in three milestones that Mr. Arslan refers to as “the key pillars of my presidency”: the declaration of World Pulses Day by the United Nations General Assembly in December, 2018; the Colombo Accord, which was signed by GPC National Associations during the 2018 GPC Conference; and the launch of the GPC Pulses Contract.
Why were you so passionate about the need for a World Pulses Day declaration?
World Pulses Day is not just an important date for our industry. It is a celebration for all people and for our planet--a unique opportunity to raise awareness about the contribution of pulses for a more sustainable world. As members of the pulse sector, we should make everyone around the globe part of this celebration, which will only continue to grow. In 2019 we celebrated the first-ever official World Pulses Day and I expect that every year we will have more meaningful and far-reaching celebrations in recognition of the key role that pulses can play in making this a better world.
You led the effort to develop and introduce the GPC Pulses Contract. What inspired you to undertake this endeavor and what is its main contribution to the pulse sector?
The launch of the GPC Pulses Contract was a response to a demand from our industry for an even-handed contract that is specifically designed by and for pulse traders. Its introduction was coordinated by the GPC Contract Committee, comprised of industry members and led by Committee Chair Andrew Jacobs and GAFTA.
Clarity and fairness are at the core of the GPC Contract, and this enables it to introduce an unprecedented feature for our industry: a fast and reliable mediation process supervised by GAFTA that can result in substantial disciplinary actions. When a company fails to meet its financial obligation as per the result of a GAFTA mediation process, its status as a defaulter will be widely announced to our membership and it will no longer be permitted to attend GPC events.
Due to the benefits introduced by the GPC Pulses Contract, we have seen its rapid adoption worldwide. And I anticipate the use of the GPC Contract will only grow until it becomes a standard for our industry. The challenge for years to come will be to release new versions of it. A variant for bulk shipments, for example.
The Colombo Accord was another important milestone in your presidency. Why is this agreement important to the global pulse industry?
The Colombo Accord champions the development of clear, fair and predictable trade policies that protect the interests of our industry. This statement is especially important today in light of recent announcements by certain countries of tariff impositions and plant protection policies that are neither science-based nor technically justified. Such measures contribute to increased unpredictability and price volatility, and this is bad news for everyone involved in the supply chain, including the countries issuing those policies.
Do you see any other role for the GPC in addressing the lack of transparency and predictability in Government policies?
As I said, the GPC should encourage the development of clear, fair and predictable trade policies as well as science-based international plant protection policies. However, there is one key element associated to achieving this goal: the continuous recognition of the Global Pulse Confederation as the apex body of the global pulse industry by its members, global trade organizations and governments from all over the world. GPC should continue to work jointly with the private and public sectors in order to reinforce its representative role. It is essential that GPC members remain unified on these crucial issues.
What other major challenges is our industry facing today?
I would put standard global specification of pulse products on the top of that list. It just doesn’t make sense that the standard designation used for ‘red lentils’ in Canada doesn’t match the name used for the same type of product in an importing country like Sri Lanka or India. This is an item that should be on the next GPC President’s agenda.
During your presidency, GPC membership by National Associations has grown significantly. How can National Associations and GPC best work together to advance the global pulse industry?
National Associations are a key element of the GPC because they bring a local view to the issues facing our industry. By exchanging information and sharing synergy with our national representatives we are in better position to tackle any problems that may arise.
One good example is what happened in Ethiopia with MRL-related issues. The GPC worked jointly with EPOSPEA, Ethiopia’s national association, to update Government agencies about the problems we were having with the amounts of pesticide residues found in Ethiopian pulses and providing training for growers to reduce those amounts.
You have been an advocate of reducing food waste and loss. How can the pulse industry help address this important matter?
Humans will need to produce more food in the next 40 years than in the previous 10,000 years combined to survive as a species, which raises an essential question: How are we going to feed the world? Part of the answer is related to food waste, since one third of the food produced in this world is either wasted or lost.
The GPC needs to be an advocate in raising awareness about food waste, working together with the United Nations, governments, and even consumers. And the reason is that pulses can play a crucial role in reducing food loss because they can be stored for a long period of time without losing their high nutritional value. In fact, some pulses like lentils don’t expire at all if stored in proper conditions.
In your view, what are some of the major consumer trends that will shape the future of the global pulse industry?
I would say there are two main ways of consuming pulses: the traditional and the non-traditional. An example of the first would be a typical meal with rice and beans--just like in many Latin American countries. The non-traditional is quite different and involves, for example, using isolated pulse fiber or pulse protein to develop value-added products like energy bars, pastas and cereals.
The interesting thing is that we are seeing more examples around the world that show the potential for non-traditional ways of consuming pulses. The hummus boom in the US is a good example. The expansion of the use of pea starch for noodles in China is another success story; 30 years ago this wasn’t such a big deal, but now we are seeing millions of tonnes of dry peas shipped to China. I anticipate that in coming years the growth of this trend will be critical to increasing global demand.
In recent years we’ve seen a sharp increase in pulse production in East Africa, Ukraine and Kazakhstan. Could rising demand boost pulse production in other non-traditional pulse-producing regions of the world?
Yes, but that’s also related to another great feature of pulses. Through their ability to fix nitrogen, pulses naturally contribute to enriching soils and increasing the yields of other crops. Consequently, growers who introduce pulses in crop rotations will likely continue to incorporate them because of the benefits they provide for farming systems, including the overall increase in crop productivity. And it’s not just a positive thing for growers. Pulses help maintain and increase soil health, thus contributing to increased food security, better nutrition and climate change adaptation.
Is there any other message you would like to share as GPC’s Outgoing President?
As I mentioned at the beginning of this interview, when I became President of the Global Pulse Confederation, my main challenge was to help change the constrained role pulses had in global agriculture. Due to the diligent work of our members and our strategic collaboration with key global organizations and governments from all over the world, we have brought pulses to the center of the plate. Looking into the future, my message for everyone involved in this industry is that this is only the beginning, and we should continue to raise awareness about the benefits of pulses for people and for the planet.
Once an orphan crop, pulses today represent the future of food.