Pulse Importers of Sri Lanka, in affiliation with the Essential Commodity Importers and Traders Association launched the "International Year of Pulses 2016" recently, following the declaration of year 2016 the "International Year of Pulses" by the UN General Assembly. The event organizers of the 'Pulse Festival in Sri Lanka' Mahmud Abdul Cader and Manjula Lanrolle spoke to Daily News on the importance of raising awareness on consuming of pulses to heighten food security, alleviate hunger and eliminate malnutrition along with the positive environmental impacts of cultivating pulses on mass scale.
Q: First and foremost, could you give a brief description of 'pulses'?
A: Pulses are the dry seeds obtained from plants of legume species. Pulses are grown in pods and are separated during harvest. Dhal (Masoor and Vatana Dhal), chickpeas, Moong beans, black grams (Ulundu), cowpea are the popular types of pulses in Sri Lanka. Pulses are an essential item in the Sri Lankan diet. May it be household consumption, restaurants or special occasions, pulses play a vital role. Many sayings in Sinhala language such as " Parippu nathi Hotalaya vage" and " Parippu keva" etc explicitly shows how closely pulses are interconnected with the Sri Lankan tradition and culture.
Q: Are pulses and cereals two different items?
A: Yes of course! Pulses and cereals are two different items. As we mentioned earlier, pulses are derived from legume species. Cereals are grass, cultivated for the edible starch, where as pulses are for the edible plant based proteins.
Q: Could you elaborate on the health advantages of consuming pulses?
A: Pulses are a rich source of protein. Therefore pulses can be consumed to eliminate nutrition deficiencies such as protein deficiency. Pulses are also rich in fiber, vitamins and minerals (magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, zinc) and help cure ailments associated with the digestive system such as indigestion and constipation. Pulses contain iron and zinc in high quantities and regular intake can help prevent anemia in children and women.
Due to high content of protein, pulses are the best alternative of source of protein for vegetarians. Pulses are low in fat and reduce the cholesterol level and help combat obesity which is a common health and beauty challenge faced by many junk food eaters.
Long-term benefits of consumptions of pulses are the elongated youth and increased life expectancy.
Q: Why should we encourage consumption of plant- based- protein sources such as pulses whereas the animal-based dietary proteins are readily available in the market?
A: Unlike plant-based dietary proteins, animal based proteins have damaging effects on our health. High consumption of meat can cause cancer, kidney ailments and other diseases such as high blood pressure and obesity. Saturated fat present in meat has injurious effects such as increasing the risk of heart disease.
Although protein is essential for growth, consumption of animal-based proteins can cause premature puberty. As animal proteins are highly inflammatory, it can cause various bodily discomforts.
Life expectancy of a consumer of animal-based dietary protein is comparatively lesser than the person who partakes of plant-based dietary proteins.
Q: Among the chief expectations of declaring 2016 the International Year of Pulses, assuring food security, alleviating hunger and eliminating malnutrition are highlighted. How can Sri Lanka achieve these goals?
A: Pulses have the ability to achieve the mentioned objectives. As pulses can be stored for a long time without getting spoilt and nutrition level being deteriorated, pulses are the ideal food type to be kept stored between harvests. This makes sure and increases the food availability, thus assuring food security. Some types of pulses can be cultivated in not so fertile lands where other edibles plants cannot be grown.
Q: How does the production of pulses help mitigate environmental issues?
A: Pulses are cultivated agriculturally. It is also used as livestock forage, silage production and as soil enhancing green manure. Plants of legume species contain symbiotic bacteria called Rhizobia in the root nodules of the plant root system.
These bacteria have the capability of fixing nitrogen naturally from the atmosphere which results in high fertility of lands. Crop rotation in leguminous crop cultivation helps control pests in a natural manner without making use of synthetic fertilizers. Reduced or zero use of synthetic fertilizers help mitigate adverse effects of climate change. Some species of pulses have the capability of freeing soil-bound phosphorus which provides nutrition to the plants.
Apart from the nitrogen-fixing and phosphorous-freeing properties, pulses help enhance organic matter and microbial biomass in the soil. This improves the water retention capacity and prevents soil erosion.
Q : What are the current trends of the global pulses market?
A: We import pulses from countries such as Australia and Canada. These two countries are the global market leader in pulses import trade. Other developed countries such as America, England, Germany, France, Japan and also India and China depend on the imports of pulses. By declaring 2016 the International Year of Pulses, it is expected that consumers will be more aware of the importance and benefits of consuming pulses. We can expect a growth in the trade as a whole after the awareness campaigns carried through globally.
Especially, we as pulse importers of Sri Lanka, would like to join hands with the relevant authorities of Sri Lanka to carry out awareness campaigns throughout the year on the importance of pulses in alleviating hunger and eliminating malnutrition.