Feed bean prices rise on good export demand

Export demand and slow farmer selling have pushed up feed bean prices by £12/t in two weeks.

Some shippers are short of beans, and the improved demand looks likely to continue through February and March, say traders.

Mid-January saw feed bean prices averaging about £185/t ex-farm. Midweek this had risen to £196-£199/t, with most regions at the top end of that range to give an average of £198/t ex-farm.

Adding to the mix is uncertainty about the volume of beans left on farm and still to come to the market.

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This is complicated by the unpredictability of how much has been fed on the farm of origin, how much farmer-to-farmer trade is done and how much is going to be used for seed. With certified bean seed in short supply, the option of home-saving seed is still very much weather dependent.

Pea and bean prices – ex-farm

  • Feed beans £196-£199/t (February movement)
  • Spot feed peas £188-£194/t spot (February movement)
  • Micronising peas £275-£283/t spot (February movement)
  • New-crop feed beans £180-£189/t, as available

“On paper, there are still beans there, but we never know how much has been fed or traded between farms,” said Alan Wymer, pulse trader at Saxon Agriculture.

The export trade may continue beyond March, but the lack of opportunity to effectively hedge beans makes the trade more risky until closer to the time of movement, said Mr Wymer.

“Most of our beans look decent, unless there’s too much insect damage”, he said. “But the Egyptian market has many outlets at different levels.”

Bean are split for certain uses, in which case the insect issue does not present such a problem, although inspections at ports can be rigorous, so quality has to be decent.  

Domestic compounders tend to use only a limited volume of beans, as volumes are unreliable and rapeseed is generally a cheaper alternative protein. The main feed use for beans in the UK market is combining them with rapemeal for extruded poultryfeed products.

Part of the increase in export demand results from buyers in Egypt – the main destination for UK bean exports – having invested recently in equipment to grade beans, so good feed samples can now be exported and graded at the destination.

UK beans compete with Australian produce for the Egyptian demand and this year’s Australian crop is smaller, both in volume and bean size, because of the drought. This has opened the market up more to UK beans, say traders.

New-crop beans

At farmer-owned United Oilseeds, trading manager Owen Cligg said there was some concern that spring drilling of barley and oats could get overcooked and that beans and oilseed rape may gain acreage as alternatives.

“We’re projected to be down to a 1.4m tonne rapeseed crop [2020 harvest].

“There has been some buying and grower interest in new-crop beans, but they are usually priced on a formula with wheat, and with the wheat price fairly buoyant at present, that makes beans look a bit expensive to the buyers.”