Western Australian lupin industry

Lupins are uniquely suited to the acid and sandy soils found across large tracts of the Western Australian wheatbelt and play an important role in breaking cereal disease cycles and adding fixed nitrogen to cropping systems.

Production in Western Australia (WA) has declined since its peak in the late 1990s with current gross value of production at $150 million.

The Australian sweet lupin has a low glyceamic index and there is increasing evidence that they could have a place in combating obesity and its associated health problems of diabetes and heart disease.

Production

Lupin production expanded rapidly in Western Australia (WA) through the 1980s and 1990s before weed issues and low prices resulted in many growers opting for a canola (or fallow in low rainfall areas) rather than lupins in rotation within cereal systems. As a result production fell from a high of 1.5 million tonnes in 1999 to a low of just over 200 000 tonnes in 2006.

Western Australian lupin area and production

Western Australian lupin area and production 1994-2015

 

Release of PBA Barlock Australian sweet lupin in 2013, with resistance to anthracnose and tolerance of the herbicide metribuzin, is seen as a positive step forward for the WA lupin industry. It is hoped that the new variety, coupled with the continued promotion of lupins as a human health product, will lift lupin production across southern Australia where a legume rotation is very much needed.

Markets

Lupins have a unique combination of high protein, high fibre, low oil and virtually no starch.

The majority of lupin production is used by stockfeed manufacturers for animal feed with ruminants (cows and sheep) the largest market followed by pigs and poultry. There is small but increasing use of lupins in aquaculture.

While less than 4% of global production is currently consumed as human food it is estimated that about 500 000 tonnes of food containing lupin ingredients is consumed each year in the European Union — mainly through the inclusion of low rates of lupin flour in wheat-based bakery products.

About 40% of lupin production in WA is retained on-farm as stockfeed and seed or is traded on the domestic market to supply the sheep, dairy, pigs and poultry industries.

Lupins generally compete against soybeans in export markets and are typically valued at 70–75 per cent of the price of soybean meal.  WA is effectively the sole exporter of lupins into the large international market for vegetable-based proteins for the livestock industries. WA accounts for the majority of Australian lupin production and exports.

The Republic of South Korea is the major buyer of WA lupins and has a large capacity dehulling plant, with the hulls used in animal feed and the kernels in pig feed rations. Other smaller markets include Japan and Netherlands. Most markets use the lupins for animal feed, although small human food markets are developing.

Health benefits

Research has shown that consuming foods enriched with Australian sweet lupin can provide a feeling of ‘fullness’ and result in people eating less and consuming fewer kilojoules. Other possible health benefits of eating lupins include a more balanced blood glucose level, a lowering of cholesterol and improved bowel health.

While the closing of Lupin Food Australia's processing plant in 2016 has reduced the capacity of lupin processing in Western Australia, there are other companies also processing lupins for food or feed, such as Irwin Valley, Coorow Seeds and Kalgrains.  Increased processing capacity will enhance the potential for lupins to be used in the large Indonesian tempe market (in place of soybeans) and other food products that could help lift the price of lupins and stimulate increased production of this grain legume across southern Australia.

Contact information

Mark Sweetingham
+61 (0)8 9368 3298
Page last updated: Monday, 11 April 2016 - 2:43pm

Authors

Janet Paterson
Ian Wilkinson