Beans can deliver good returns for growers

Spring bean growers should see good supplies of seed and a ready market for their crop despite an expected sharp rise in plantings.

The area down to winter and spring beans this season is set to rise by up to 30%, pushing prices slightly lower, but beans should still trade at a good premium over feed wheat.

Andy Bury, UK pulse manager with agribusiness group Frontier, predicts a bigger 2015 bean harvest will see strong export demand, especially from Egypt, and good domestic uptake.

He does not see seed supply being a major problem, as half that used comes from home-saved seed, and he urges growers to aim for the premium human consumption market.

“Put them in the ground, have a contract, and grow for quality,” said Mr Bury, who is also president of the British Edible Pulses Association (Bepa), at a recent briefing.

See also: Growers reveal secret to profitable winter beans

He estimates the total UK bean crop could touch 550,000t for harvest 2015, up from 410,000t in 2014, with the crop split 50:50 between human consumption and compound feed use.

Some 250,000t could be heading for the fast-growing markets of north Africa, with 90% of this destined for Egypt, which has an annual demand for about 650,000t of beans for use in making falafel.

UK growers would be in a good position to supply this need instead of Egypt’s other big suppliers, France and Australia, as UK spring beans are seen as a premium product.

Mr Bury puts the expected rise in the UK bean area down to three factors – growers’ needs to meet new EU greening rules, the fight against blackgrass and a reaction to poor oilseed rape prices.

The total UK bean area is up at 130,000ha this season after 100,000ha for harvest 2014, with the winter bean area set to rise slightly to 35,000ha from 30,000ha, and the spring bean area to 95,000ha from 70,000ha.

On the use of beans for feed, Mr Bury sees a return in demand from UK feed compound mills, a likely rise in needs from southern Spain and Italy and good demand for its use in fish food.

He says bean prices are being quoted at £35/t over feed wheat for harvest 2015, with another £25-30/t premium for human consumption, which see feed beans trading at £170/t and at about £200/t for human consumption, both for November 2015.

Although average UK bean yields are only about 4t/ha, Mr Bury says Frontier have supplier growers who are consistently harvesting crops of 5-6.5t/ha.

The combine pea area is likely to see only a small rise from the 30,000ha that produced a crop of 100,000t in 2014 due to limited seed availability and a poor market for feed peas, Mr Bury said.

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