The spring bean area is set to double this season after wet weather hit autumn drilling for a range of winter crops while an anticipated bigger bean harvest has already cut forward prices.

Many growers frustrated by poor drilling conditions abandoned autumn crops and have plumbed for spring beans with the area set to rise to 100,000ha this year, according to Andy Bury, national pulse trader with agricultural merchant Frontier.

Although the winter bean crop area fell due to waterlogged fields at drilling time, the big jump in the spring area could produce a combined bumper national bean crop of around 500,000 tonnes this year.

Prospect for a big harvest have already cut the price premium over feed wheat to £30/t for 2013 harvest crop, or around £220-225/t, from the current premium of around £90/t which Mr Bury says is expensive when compared to competing soya prices.

“With the potential big area increase in spring beans, new crop premiums are likely to be under pressure. Today, we are paying a £30/t premium over feed wheat for new crop November beans,” he told a pulse roadshow for growers.

“If we can provide a good bean crop then we can import more into Egypt than France. Our north African customers have year round demand for more UK beans, they prefer UK to French.”
Andy Bury, natioanl pulse trader

Although he estimates the UK winter bean crop area shrank to around 25,000ha from 41,000ha the previous year, the expected big jump in spring-sown crops could produce the UK’s biggest bean harvest since 2009’s 601,000t.

Mr Bury says market prices are also driven by the big export market to Egypt as the crop is used in falafel, or deep fried balls of ground beans, and he believes if quality is good then the UK can export more than its big European competitor, France.

This season nearly half the UK crop, or around 150,000t is expected to head for Egypt, or around the same amount as from France, although Australia has moved to be the largest importer to the north African nation this season.

“If we can provide a good bean crop then we can import more into Egypt than France. Our north African customers have year round demand for more UK beans, they prefer UK to French,” he adds.

Mr Bury was speaking at the roadshow arranged by the Processors & Growers Research Organisation (PGRO) and agrochem group Syngenta.

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