Bean prices are firm, with premiums of up to £20/t over feed value for decent quality.
However, spring bean yields have been disappointing – often lower than 2.5t/ha (1t/acre) – with a high proportion of small beans, while winter crops have not fared so badly.
Bruchid beetle damage levels were high in the early crops harvested in the south east but there is a general improvements in quality northwards, say merchants.
The feed bean price is £175 to £180/t spot ex-farm, depending on location and this is currently a bit high for compounders, although they prefer beans to peas, said Alan Wymer of Norfolk based Saxon Agriculture.
Human consumption premiums for spring beans range from £15 to £20/tonne above feed price, while winter bean premiums are £10 to £15/t above feed – but moisture must be lower than 15%.
Buyers are becoming more flexible on insect damage levels, so while the contract term is generally 3%, beans are being taken for human consumption markets at up to 8%, with a reduction in premium of £5-8/t for the higher damage levels.
This reinforces the need for samples to be checked so quality can be established.
The UK bean crop is likely to be just 450,000-475,000t and with good export prospects the outlook is bullish for prices, although net margins from the crop will be knocked by lower yields.
Sudan and Egypt are the main potential customers, as their traditional supplier, France, has had quality issues and lower yields this season. However, French farmers do have the advantage of an extra £30-plus/t subsidy on top of the standard EU protein crop supplement.
“The UK will be well placed to do more export this season, although there will be a bit more of a threat from Australia,” said Mr Wymer.
The pea trade was harder to call, said Andy Bury of Frontier, Feed peas were worth £170 to £172/t spot ex-farm, with the very best blue peas up to £200/t. However, processors carried over large stocks so were under no pressure to buy. Best marrowfats looked like being worth £200-230/t ex-farm from October to December.