Pea and bean markets wait for quality verdict

Pea and bean markets are quiet as the first few samples come in.

Quality crops are crucial if premium markets are to be accessed from a base of about £175/t to £185/t ex-farm, depending on region.

The bean trade was starting to pick up after a quiet month during Ramadan, said Phil Rix, pulses manager at Dunns.

Between 30% and 50% of the UK bean crop is exported, mainly to Egypt. There is the potential for this to pay a £10/t-25/t premium but it was too early for the level to be established, he said.

While the UK benefited from France’s crop quality challenges last season, traders say that the French crop this year looks better and the strength of the pound is making exports challenging.

Compounders currently have reasonable cover on beans and will only use them once the price gets down to between £20/t and £30/t more than the feed wheat price.

The micronising market which mainly produces dog food mixes accounts for about 60% of the UK’s blue pea crop, paying a £30/to £50/t premium over feed values.

Blue peas suitable for human consumption are mainly for splitting, with exports going to northern Europe and in particular to Holland and Scandinavia, accounting for about 30% of the crop.

Human consumption premiums for blue peas can be anywhere between £30/t and £50/t over feed values. “It is early days but this year looks like starting at about £30/t-35/t over feed,” said Mr Rix.

Marrowfat peas are grown mainly on contract and account for only about 10% of the acreage. Premiums could be £100/t-150/t over the feed price and marrowfats looked like being in fairly tight supply this year, said Mr Rix.

“The most important thing is to try and maintain quality – pest and disease control is important but timing of harvest is probably the critical factor – especially with peas. Twenty-four hours can make a huge difference in appearance and value. We had high levels of pea moth in the last two years, which is mainly down to the timing of spraying.”

Impact of greening

Estimates of the impact of greening on the pea and bean acreage have varied widely, from a 20% increase to 100%. Measures to deal with blackgrass and the withdrawal of oilseed rape treatments also mean that growers will be looking for new cropping options.

Current trader opinion is in the region of a 30% pulse area increase but they stress that it is far too early to draw any firm conclusions.

Markets could be developed for a bigger crop, said traders. Compounders wanted continuity of supply. The market for beans as a feed for farmed salmon was also growing quite rapidly, said Dunns’ Phil Rix, and most first-time pulse growers would opt for beans.