While the 2020 UK pulse crop area was the highest for almost two decades, yields across the country have been very variable, reports the Processors and Growers Research Organisation (PGRO). However, values are steady or even rising as medium to long term demand continues.

DEFRA’s June survey confirms a 38% increase in the UK bean area to 188,000ha and 27% for peas to 52,000ha – the largest combined pulse crop area since 2002. Clearly, the wet autumn 2019 which disrupted winter cereal plantings had an effect, but the PGRO notes “an underlying realisation of the importance of pulses in crop rotations – while the wheat area will rebound, will pulses retain or even gain ground on other crop alternatives?”

The PGRO estimates that the 2020 pulse harvest is 90-95% complete. Those areas affected most by the winter rainfall and spring drought have seen the worst yields and poorest quality.

The trade has reduced its initial estimates for the national bean crop, which is now thought to be between 450,000 and 550,000 tonnes. However, pulse values have remained at the same level or crept upwards over recent months while other crop commodities fluctuated.

While bruchid damage is lower than in previous years, only 15% of samples seen so far are of human consumption quality – mostly from the north. The premium is just £10/tonne over feed, or £210-£215/tonne ex-farm. Demand is said to be slight with some growers already opting for feed markets.

Exporters are facing competition from a larger than forecast Baltic bean crop, which is being traded for human consumption earlier and cheaper than expected and puts pressure on UK and Australian origins. Australia is set to harvest 70% larger crop than in 2019 and shipments from late October will also compete for Egyptian orders.
Feed bean exports will be affected by currency fluctuations – a slightly weaker sterling has encouraged European feed buyers to look at UK beans, but Spain had a good domestic harvest and may need less beans, while Italian feed buyers may already have committed to low priced peas.

Current UK feed bean values are just over £200 – £205/tonne ex-farm, reports Pulses UK, which is too dear for ruminant diets, so what demand there is comes from monogastric and aquaculture compounders. But recent rises in soya, rapeseed and sunflower meals may make UK beans more competitive in rations.

Combining peas are down to some 3 tonnes/ha for green and blue pea crops, with a wide variation in quality. Marrowfats are worth £265-£285/tonne ex-farm, with 2021 contracts up to £330/tonne ex-farm including quality bonuses. Blue/green peas could fetch £260/tonne ex-farm for best samples with £227/tonne for 10% bleaching. 2021 contracts are in a £225-£275/tonne range.

Yellow/white peas are in the region of £205-£210/tonne ex-farm, but with little demand for open market samples. Maple peas could fetch £300/tonne ex-farm, but again there is little spot demand for this niche market.