British Edible Pulses Association (BEPA)

BEPA is the trade association representing the processors and users of British-produced pulse (mainly combining peas and field beans) crops. BEPA’s key objectives are to liaise with UK government and other national and international associations, & encourage the consumption of home-produced pulses by promoting their value as healthy, high-protein and high-fibre foods, and to liaise with crop scientists and plant breeders.

Franek Smith, President with Lewis Cottey, Vice PresidentOur website brings you the history of BEPA, contact information for all our members, BEPA in the press and media, the latest pulse market prices, and an introduction to the many end uses for UK-produced pulses.

We also give details of the main BEPA contacts - if you would like to know more about BEPA, and the important role pulses play in the UK's agricultural and food sectors, please ask us!

Franek Smith, President with Lewis Cottey, Vice-President.

British Edible Pulses Association (BEPA)
Future BEPA & PGRO Events and selected UK/EU eventsFuture BEPA & PGRO Events
and selected UK/EU events




“With some harvesting of winter beans having taken place in July – exceptionally early – the fact that there are spring beans still up to three weeks away from cropping in Scotland is making the harvest a rather more prolonged affair than normal,” comments Roger Vickers, Chief Executive of PGRO. “That said, it must be remembered that almost all crops have matured early this year and it is the remaining spring beans that are on a more ‘normal’ trajectory.

“Beans in the southern half of England have generally yielded well, but significant problems with bruchid beetle damage have seen almost 80% fail to make the grade for human consumption. 

However, high hopes remain for the northern crop, traditionally coming from regions far less prone to bruchid activity and the resulting holes they create in the grains. There remains the possibility of staining if mature crops with split pods stand wet for a prolonged period. 

“Crops reported so far have seen winter beans generally outperform spring beans. Winter beans are averaging about 5t/ha, with spring beans perhaps a tonne behind. The range of performance has again been significant with 2.5t/ha up to 8t/ha reported - not only grower-by-grower but in some cases crop-by-crop, depending upon local circumstances.

“Harvest in the Baltic States is reported to have been delayed significantly by bad weather, and the absence of their new crop in the market has given a small boost to UK bean export opportunities. It is also casting doubt over the already uncertain Baltic quantity and quality. Weather-delayed harvesting means just 20% of their crop has been taken. The effect of their inclement weather on the remaining mature crop can only be negative for quality.

“Pea crops have been extremely variable too and the quality – especially of marrowfat peas - will have been very disappointing for many growers. Both blues and marrowfats were compromised by the wet weather at harvest, which resulted in significant bleaching. This was reported in last month’s bulletin, and with most samples now seen, the picture remains unchanged.” 

Franek Smith, President of BEPA, reports that values for Feed Beans remain more or less unchanged on the month, though a stronger sterling is putting a little downward pressure on the feed export opportunities. As a result, this is holding up interest from UK feed markets, which are perhaps hoping to see the price fall from the current level of £150-155/t ex.

A lower availability of human consumption grade means more beans are headed for the feed market, which is another potential weight on the price. To date, approximately 50,000t has been committed to Italian and Spanish markets on the back of weaker sterling. This interest may slacken if the recent currency rally continues and would put backpressure on price in the domestic market.

With quality of Human Consumption Beans lower than 12 months ago, and doubt about the remainder to be harvested both here and in the Baltic, prices for human consumption have risen. The importance of representative sampling cannot be overemphasised. Ensuring quality is uniform throughout the heap is necessary to avoid unexpected rejection. Pressure to deliver against commitments has driven current premiums - reported ranging from £10 to £25/t depending on visual appearance - a rise of up to £15 in the month. Buyers in Egypt apparently aware of the quality uncertainty, appear to be maintaining interest despite the strengthening currency against the US Dollar. With quantity, quality and currency even more uncertain than normal it is hard to put a clear direction on values. Perhaps sellers hedging their bets are taking a wise decision.

Turning to Combining Peas, in general crop quality has been disappointing with yields very variable depending upon region. An average yield in 2017 appears to have been about 3 to 3.5t/ha with a range of 1t/ha to 6.7t/ha.

A general note for all peas downgraded to feed quality is that there are few homes for feed peas - feed beans being preferred in general. This is because beans offer a more consistent supply and have a higher protein concentration. This is likely to result in any feed pea prices being at a discount to feed beans.

Around 90% of Marrowfat Pea samples seen have excess bleaching (>10%), preventing them from reaching export standards. Yields have average around 3.2t/ha. Values range from top quality at around £230/t ex for export through to £170/t for canning quality and down to £145/t for feed grade peas.

Although Large Blue Peas are also taking a quality hit, there is a larger proportion of good quality large blues available. Approximately 70% have excess bleaching (>10%). Average yields were around 3.2t/ha. Values hold at about £210/t for the best quality. Other values are similar to the marrowfats.

Yellow peas are a small market with a relatively small number of so far inactive sellers. Currently values are stable at circa £180/t ex. Markets still remain quiet with little activity.

NOTE: DEFRA published the 2017 June Survey crop area during September.
Bean area is reported at a rise of 8.7% to 188,700 ha, with a fall of 21.6% for Peas to 39,200ha


UK-grown Marrowfat peas are considered amongst the best in the world. They are only produced in the UK, Canada and New Zealand … with our maritime climate giving UK growers the edge.

marrowfat cansWidely used in the snacks industry - particularly in Asia - the best quality samples receive a premium price for the export market. As snack peas become more popular in the UK, once processed, many are then finding their way back to our retail shelves and bars in handy snack packs!

Recently a Japanese client asked one of the exporters an apparently simple question, which proved rather tricky to answer: “Did the Marrowfat Pea originate from the UK or were the seeds originally imported from another country to be grown in the UK?

The fact that an export cultivar popular in Japan is called Maro has led some people to assume, mistakenly, that the English name marrowfat is derived from Japanese. In fact the name marrowfat pea for mature dried peas is recorded by the Oxford English Dictionary as early as 1733.

Tracking down the true origin of Marrowfat peas proved more involved - detective work has revealed that the birth of marrowfat peas as we know them dates back to the late 1800s.

During the life of Queen Victoria there were many progressive changes. For example, the Victorians became very interested in plant breeding - including peas. Amateurs were producing new crosses, and from the 1820s ‘marrow’ peas were being referred to. Descriptions of the many types of pea from the 19th century were based not on taxonomy, but on artificial similarities, the basis for many of the names of common heirloom peas still grown today.

From the late 19th century the trail leads to the Netherlands. In 1898, an article for the Royal Horticultural Journal on the history of garden peas in England: He said that “… in the last fifteen years a whole new business had been created in Holland of growing and marketing ‘blue boiling peas’ (soaked peas).’”

These were exported as a dried pea to England and sold in major industrial and mining towns. They were used as a cooked winter vegetable as a good replacement for fresh peas. They were also sold with butter and salt from stalls to workmen in the early morning hours.

It was assumed that the peas grown in Holland were from English bred material, namely from large seeded peas known as meaty horticulture peas. The Dutch name for this pea type was ‘Schokker’, the peas being grown predominantly in the Zeeland region.

In 1901, the Dutch breeder R.J. Mansholt began selecting from the English-bred marrowfat variety Harrisons Glory. This became an integral part of the Dutch breeding programme and by 1905 he had a short straw high-yielding variety, Mansholts Kortstro Schokker.

In the 1920s, the marrowfat variety Mansholts Glory Schokker was introduced with a further selection for straw shortness. This was used in the Koopman breeding programme to produce a very large seeded variety, Jumboka, first listed in 1935. Meanwhile, Zelka, a smaller seeded variety with fusarium wilt resistance and reliable yield characteristics, had been produced.

In 1931, trying to combine the reliability of Zelka with the large seed size of Jumboka, Koopmans produced selections which eventually resulted in the variety Big Ben. In further developments, Big Ben was crossed with Zelka and by the late 1960s the variety Maro was registered and was listed in the UK in 1980, bred by Cebeco Seeds.

Harrisons Glory, Zelka and Big Ben were commercially used by Batchelors Foods Ltd until they were replaced in the late 1960s with Maro for their packet and canning pea businesses.

Today although no longer on the PGRO recommended list, Maro is represented, maintained and remains available as a commercially-produced heirloom variety in the UK by Church of Bures.

Breeding work continues to bring improved varieties to growers and end users alike with three modern varieties now on the PGRO Recommended List, the latest added in 2016. All of these have improved characters of earliness of ripening, shortness of straw and standing ability - while being resistant to the old enemy of pea wilt.

keith costello and roger vickersIn this way, the descendants of the peas enjoyed in the 18th century are still being enjoyed today - even if they are no longer usually sold with butter and salt from stalls to workmen in the early morning hours. In the 21st century, as well as being on supermarket shelves in cans, and served as mushy peas to accompany traditional British fish & chips, they are just as likely to be consumed as wasabi peas in trendy bars!

Keith Costello (pictured with Roger Vickers of PGRO) worked in the pea industry for over 41 years. He retired in 2015 but remains an active consultant.