Get better pulse returns despite more crop hitting market

Peas and beans are enjoying a resurgence, with the three-crop rule and decline of oilseed rape driving a big increase in planted area this year.

Bean plantings are likely to be about 30% higher than in 2014, with the pea crop expected to increase by about 15%.

Can the market support this kind of growth without a negative impact on prices?

According to Andy Bury, pulse trader at Frontier and outgoing president of the British Edible Pulses Association (Bepa), harvest 2015 could see the bean area increase by 25-30% on the year, to a potential crop size of 560,000t.

See also: Plough v direct drilling for spring-bean planting

Typical contract specifications

  • Human consumption beans: <5% Bruchid damage. Pale consistent colour. Max 15% moisture.
  • Feed beans: Max 15% moisture and 1% admixture. (For export, combined max moisture and admixture of 16%, will take at up to 18.5% with allowances).
  • Peas: Max 15% moisture, 2% admixture, max 10% bleach, 10% stain.

Bean market

  • Forecast 560,000t crop. After seed and on-farm usage, likely 250,000t feed use (100,000t exported, 150,000t domestic) and 250,000t human consumption (all exported).
  • Tic beans – small market for pigeon feed.

Pea market

  • Forecast 130,000t crop, plus carryover from 2014.
  • Large blue peas make up 60-70% of the crop. Half are micronised (heat treated and rolled) for use in animal food, other half used for human consumption. Just under 50% of those are exported as snack foods to Far East.
  • Marrowfats 30,000t – 40,000t. Used to make tinned mushy peas or exported as snack foods to Far East.

“However, you must remember that in 2009-10 we had a 615,000t crop,” he says.

“This growth is a good thing because it will bring back some domestic and export demand.”

“Sell before Christmas”

Most of the UK’s bean exports will be human consumption beans destined to North Africa and the Middle East, says Arron Mayhew, pulse trader at Nidera.

With the UK’s main competitors being France and Australia, the best time to sell is before Christmas.

“If beans are stored too long they lose their colour, so once the Australian crop is available in January demand for UK produce drops off.”

Beans are also very susceptible to moisture damage in store, so it is essential that farmers have them sampled at harvest, so they know what market to target and whether they need drying, he adds.

Agronomist relationship

“Human-consumption beans are fetching a minimum premium of £25/t over feed beans, and it is a growing market – demand to Egypt is increasing.

“It’s therefore essential that you work closely with your agronomist to achieve human-consumption quality.”

In the main, that means controlling Bruchid beetle damage, harvesting at the right time to avoid staining and splitting, and reaching the required moisture content.

Beans that fail to meet human-consumption specifications will be sold as feed.

“There is increasing demand for beans in aquaculture in Scotland and Norway, and there could be more demand for export to Spain and Italy, but feed prices are likely to be down this year,” says Mr Mayhew.

New crop feed beans are priced about £30/t above wheat futures – equivalent to about £160/t ex-farm for November movement.

“Until we’ve seen the size and quality of the UK and French crops, any market movement between now and harvest will depend on wheat prices,” he adds.

“There are different contracts available – min-max price or futures related – but until the beans are in the ground we’re unlikely to see much demand for new crop.”

Pea market

The pea market is much less liquid, as most peas are sold on buyback contracts, says Tom Miller, pulse trader at Openfield.

“Marrowfat seed was sold out some time ago, and most farmers will have sold on a buyback contract at minimum £325/t or a fixed price of about £345/t,” he says.

“This year (2014 crop), large blue peas were fetching £210-£250/t depending on quality, but until we know the quality of the 2015 harvest it is difficult to predict where values will be.”
Tom Miller, Openfield pulse trader

Large blue pea prices for the 2015 crop are at a minimum £200/t, but there are very few contracts available at the moment, adds Mr Miller.

“This year (2014 crop), large blue peas were fetching £210-£250/t depending on quality, but until we know the quality of the 2015 harvest it is difficult to predict where values will be.”

Good quality 2014 crop marrowfat peas are making about £400/t ex-farm and demand is high.

Even with an increased crop area, there seems no immediate let up in demand, so prices seem set to stay high for at least the next 18 months, says Bepa in its most recent report.   

Micronising peas have been trading at similar values to large blues for the 2014 crop depending on quality, but new crop peas are difficult to value.

“UK supply has outpaced demand recently, with a carryout from the 2013-14 and 2014-15 crops adding to the balance sheet,” says Mr Miller.

“Growers need to maximise quality by timely harvesting as feed peas should trade at parity or a small discount to feed beans.”

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