REWARDS BUT RISK HIGH FORPULSES…
PEA and bean growers still have scope to exploit value-added premium markets, some of which are not being satisfied by UK-sourced pulses.
In times of economic uncertainty for pulses, as for cereals, growers need to be aware of all the possible premium paying markets, says Geoffrey Gent, director of the Processors and Growers Research Organisation.
But growing for such outlets is not without risk, he warns. As such extra management is needed.
"Unlike cereals, markets for peas and beans are very diverse and there are some worthwhile premiums to be had which could underpin profits in future," he points out. "But there is a trade off in lower yield, higher inputs, and increased risk.
"Experienced growers who develop a production strategy and establish a working relationship with a specialist merchant should be able to gain a worthwhile share of a range of niche markets."
At Cereals 98 PGRO and the British Edible Pulse Association are jointly mounting a demonstration to show growers which premium markets are available, and how to achieve a quality sample.
Currently UK production from just over 200,000ha (500,000 acres) of peas and beans yields 575,000t, or just about half the 1.1m tonnes needed for compounding.
Although the 60,000t market for micronising for animal feed rations is being met, demand for this specialist market, which is worth a premium of about £10/t, is expanding steadily.
There is still some slack to be taken up for canning, with a shortfall of last year of about 2000t on demand of 24,000t of marrowfat peas. There was an even bigger shortfall, about 3,000t or 40%, in supplies of the small blue peas needed for canning.
The premium for canning quality peas is about £40/t. This is doubled for marrowfats which meet the export specification. Last year UK growers only supplied 6000 of the 8-10,000t requirement. There was an even bigger vacuum left to be filled for human consumption beans for overseas markets. There was demand for 30,000t, yet UK growers supplied just 50% of beans needed.
"To meet the requirements of value-added markets growers should select the appropriate variety then manage the crop so the sample meets the specifications," Mr Gent says. "BEPA will advise on the varieties, choice of the wrong one could slam the door on the intended market opportunity making the crop suitable only for inclusion in animal feeds."
For the export trade samples of large marrowfat peas with good colour and free from serious blemishes are required. The market wants a traditional marrowfat type, so Maro is particularly suitable.
Other options include Princess, Eagle and Progreta. Growers selecting Maro sacrifice yield as it has a rating of 80 on the NIAB list compared with 102 for the best of the fully recommended feed types Baccara and Focus.
Standing ability is also sacrificed as Maro has a 4 on the NIABs 1-9 scale where a low score denotes a high risk of a flat crop. The best of the feeders have 7s or 8s.
"In practice this means a Maro grower can expect severe lodging in nine out of 10 years, with the feeders going down in just three or four years. But there is never a guarantee of a standing crop at harvest and growers can do absolutely nothing to stop lodging. Those with experience will not worry as they know that with care and patience at harvest, and lifting fingers on the combine, most of the crop will be picked up. But a new grower is unlikely to want to put with this sort of hassle."
In addition to low yield and flat crops, growers wanting to produce marrowfats for export face a substantial increase to input costs. A seed treatment to control downy mildew is needed, an insecticide spray programme to beat the pea moth will have to be implemented, and a fungicide sprayed.
"On top of all this is the risk the crop may not meet the specifications. Growers do not want to use a low yielding variety, invest more in inputs, and cope with a difficult harvest to have the peas rejected. If they fail to make the grade they would have to be sold for animal feed at the base price.
For micronising green seeded varieties are needed. Growers should select these from the NIAB list after considering their standing ability. Hampton and Elan are two obvious candidates which yield within 3% of the best of the rest. For this end-use there are no specific changes needed to the standard agronomic package.
Beans for human consumption export markets in the Middle East need pale skins, and freedom from Bruchid beetle damage. The pest is now widespread and well established in traditional bean growing areas, and as there are no reliable control measures available it can wreck all hope of market acceptability.
This is why Mr Gent suggests all bean growers, whether in traditional areas or not, with pale seeded varieties should check their sample for holes. If the beans appear sound they could scoop the export bonus.
SEE PULSES FOR YOURSELF
To demonstrate the potential value-added markets available, the British Edible Pulse Association has sown plots at the Cereals 98 site with 21 varieties of peas and beans. There are 16 spring pea varieties, two winter types, and three spring beans. Those suitable for the micronising market include the green seeded Hampton, Elan, Lantra, Espace, Woodcock and Solara. Small blue types for canning include Flair and Conquest. The three beans, all for export outlets, are Victor, Alpine, and Maris Bead.