With early pea crops already falling to the combine, markets are hard to read as traders wait for a more accurate picture of production in the UK and its competing origins, while quality remains dependent on the weather over the next few weeks.
“UK peas are starting to be harvested in the south of the country”, notes Roger Vickers, chief executive of the Processors and Growers Research Organisation. “Typically, after a very dry cool spring, the weather at the point of harvest has turned catchy. It remains to be seen how this will affect quality, particularly for blue and marrowfat peas, the harvest timing of which is so critical to the retention of visual quality. For the last two months the UK market has been relatively uneventful with very little to report.”
Franek Smith, president of the British Edible Pulse Association, reports that the large carryover of marrowfat peas from harvest 2016 did affect prices, with the impact on plantings for 2017 about to be revealed as the new crop comes to market. The trade estimates a 40% reduction in the marrowfat area for 2017, but it may take a further twelve months for supply and demand to balance. With a few crops harvested in the south, early indications point to good quality and yields with spot prices for top quality around £225/tonne ex-farm, although most merchants have contracted their requirements.
Large blue pea yields appear significantly better than for 2016 on limited samples, with crops producing well over 5 tonnes/ha. Top quality blue peas are currently fetching around £205/tonne ex-farm, with £170/tonne ex-farm for poorer samples. Early harvest yields for yellow peas also look promising, with early trades reflecting a market level around £175/tonne ex- farm as new crop availability reduces values from the £250/tonne peak of a few weeks ago when supplies were very short.
Although new crop UK feed beans have yet to be harvested, there is little trade due to a lack of immediate requirement from feed compounders. Market prices have slipped from recent highs of some £189/tonne ex-farm. Mr Smith expects feed bean prices to come under pressure, with perhaps a £20/tonne premium to September wheat pointing to values of up to £170/tonne ex-farm – but higher than the £142/tonne average in September 2016.
Turning to human consumption beans, Mr Smith says there will be export demand when the new crop arrives. While the major Egyptian market is now in better shape after its financial turmoil reduced UK imports last season, it remains a tough – and risky – place to do business. But there is potential in the smaller Sudanese market which reportedly has little or no carryover stock.
US pea production is set to fall significantly, following hot dry weather in the mid-west, Mr Smith concludes. However, it continues to develop export markets, as does Canada which forecasts a rise in sales to India and Bangladesh. The Canadians expect prices to weaken, although their yellow peas may maintain a small premium over green types with a small reduction in yellow pea production for 2017/18.