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Marrowfat peas return to Mid Canty

11 August 2015

The growth in the healthy snack food market in Western countries has led to increased demand for marrowfat peas.

The resurgence of marrowfat peas as a crop option for arable farmers continues with Midlands Seed announcing a 15 per cent increase in volume from last season.

Just back from Japan, Midlands Seed international pulse manager Brett Colgan said there was potential to plant more of the break crop because of increased demand from Western countries to use the legume in snack foods.

Marrowfat peas used to be a popular option in Mid Canterbury until recent years.

Traditionally used in the UK market for mushy peas and Asia as wasabi pea snacks or extruded snacks, marrowfat now has an emerging strong market in Western countries where it has been sold as a healthy extruded snack.

Midlands Seed has been offering contracts for marrowfat peas since the company began 25 years ago and has been able to increase prices dramatically in the past two seasons due to a direct partnership they have encouraged with leading manufacturers in Asia.

"Over the years, with everyone having a great focus on supply chain management, the business has shifted to dealing more directly with the snack food manufacturers and end users."

Last year they increased the grower price by 17 per cent and this year they have been able to up the price again by 5 per cent. Mr Colgan said although the high Kiwi dollar had made aspects of the marrowfat pea business difficult over recent years, Midlands Seed was fortunate to have had loyal, long-term buyers stick with them.

"Even when New Zealand peas were up to 20 per cent more expensive than from other countries." Now with a growing Western market, Mr Colgan sees sustainable returns for the crop in Mid Canterbury, particularly with one Japanese manufacturer launching the snacks into the United States.

In the five years the factory has been open in the US, the Japanese company has seen sales double every year leading them to commission a second factory, as well as one in Europe.

Twenty per cent of global marrowfat pea consumption comes from the healthy snack market and Mr Colgan believes if it continues it could have great potential locally for farmers.

Midlands has been working in partnership with Plant Research Ltd to improve marrowfats and it hopes to have a significantly better yielding cultivar to release within two years.

Currently the pea yields are between 3.5 to 4 tonnes per hectare.