Traders report an increase in UK winter bean sowings for harvest 2018, but the current feed bean market is slow as a lack of quality hampers premium grade exports.  

“Quality issues have continued to dominate the UK trade,” notes Roger Vickers, chief executive of the Processors and Growers Research Organisation. “The lack of quality is handicapping export opportunities, increasing availability for feed and dissuading buyers from longer-term commitments. Anecdotal reports indicate that the area of winter beans has increased, with growers taking advantage of the more open autumn conditions, perhaps hoping for a slightly earlier harvest and reflecting on generally good yields of winter beans 2017.”

Mr Vickers states that the most significant news during the last month was “the apparently snap decision of India to impose a 50% tariff on all imports of peas. As India is the largest importer of pulses on the world market, this move is likely to put pressure on exporters – particularly of yellow peas – to focus on other markets which in turn is likely to push values lower in the short term. 

“Australian bean crops are heading towards harvest,” he continues. “Crop areas are significantly down on the records of 2016, so the bumper supplies that came to the human consumption market over the last 12 months can be expected to decrease. The southern states of Australia stand in anticipation of a potentially huge rainfall event that could significantly harm harvest in the productive south eastern region

Franek Smith, president of the British Edible Pulse Association, reports that the market for feed beans in the UK is relatively slow. “Feed buyers have a number of competing mid-protein sources and are in no particular rush to make longer term forward commitments, having largely secured their pre-Christmas requirements. Buyers are reluctant to come to the market at present, perceiving a good supply and potential downward price pressure. Values are currently around £145/tonne ex-farm depending upon location.”

On the human consumption bean market, Mr Smith notes that the Egyptian export market is currently full, with a significant Australian old crop carryover in addition to competitively priced Baltic sources making up for the reduced UK availability. “There are currently few, if any buyers, so trying to put a price on human consumption field beans is a theoretical exercise. Traders are generally pessimistic about finding additional volumes of good quality in the UK to make up bulk boat exports, and no new boats are scheduled.”

 The market for Marrowfat Peas is dogged by issues of excess bleaching and contamination, Mr Smith continues. Best samples are fetching up to £250/tonne ex-farm, with 10-20% bleaching taking a £20-30/tonne discount. Feed quality is worth £140/tonne or less in the current market.

Good Large Blue Peas are hard to find and can fetch £230/tonne ex-farm for top quality, with bleached samples in the region of £155/tonne, with a further £10-15/tonne discount for feed. “The domestic market for Yellow Peas is still very small but with signs of growth. Current values for good samples are around £175/tonne ex-farm,” Mr Smith concludes.