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



“The UK pulse harvest continues to move north with the catchy weather having taken the edge off what looked likely to be exceptional crops in the early season,” comments Roger Vickers, Chief Executive of PGRO. “It is now apparent that the short hot spell in June had a negative impact on yield in places and repeated wetting and drying approaching harvest has produced a mixed affair. That said, yields in general so far are significantly better than crop 2016. There is local variability in both pea and bean crops, with beans perhaps more consistent.

“Reports of pea yields vary from almost 6t/ha to as low as 2t/ha. Early harvested peas look to have fared the best, with the persistent showery weather having taken a significant toll on visual quality.

“Bean yields are reported as consistently over 4t/ha and up to 8t/ha, with average yields so far reported around 5t/ha – perhaps 30% up on the disappointment that was 2016. With most of the spring-sown beans still to be harvested, initial indications suggest they may have been slightly outyielded by winter crops. Winter bean quality has suffered too with significant bruchid beetle damage seen in southern crops, and more than the usual amount of spot staining which is hard for colour sorters to remove. Much of this is unlikely to make human consumption grade and will find a home in the feed market.”

Franek Smith, President of BEPA, reports that as harvest arrived, the values for Feed Beans fell back a little as usual. Currently circa £155/t ex, feed beans are approximately £18-20/t above November wheat, which has fallen of late. The contract high for November 2017 LIFFE was £154.75. At that point, sellers may have been able to achieve £165-£168 ex farm for harvest movement.

Early domestic market interest in the feed market has been suppressed by lack of availability and competitively priced alternative mid protein sources through the summer period. On the other hand, drought in the Mediterranean regions and lower GBP values have spurred interest in traditional export markets of Spain and Italy, and several small bulk vessels have already been scheduled for early autumn shipment.

Whilst some small shipments of Human Consumption Beans have already taken place to Sudan and Turkey, there is little trade at present. The market is cloudy and can perhaps best be described as fluid.

The main market in Egypt is not yet interested, with significant carryovers from 2016 Australian crop still in the system. Baltic produce is also competitive, although the weakened GBP is assisting UK traders. It is expected that the main interest in this market will develop from October towards early 2018.

Values are somewhat theoretical with few export buyers. A premium over feed of perhaps £14/t might be expected, making them £165-175/t ex.

With much of the spring bean harvest still to come, it is hard to judge the likely supply of human consumption quality crop. Ultimately quality and availability will determine the price achieved.

Of the small number of samples seen so far only 15-20% have made the grade. However, there is confidence that the UK will be able to supply the market with the usual quantity of quality produce.

Samples of Marrowfat peas seen so far have been largely disappointing, though yields have been good - and there are some exceptional new crop samples being received. Excessive bleaching means a large number of the crop 2017 samples seen so far will likely head for the feed market.

Growers with excellent visual quality could realise £220-230/t ex a premium of circa £30/t over middling samples. If the picture by the end of harvest remains the same, the carryover issue of marrowfat peas could potentially resolve itself quicker than had been suggested. As always, visual quality and colour retention is the driver in this market.

With Large Blue Pea quality being predominantly about the retention of good colour and visual appearance, the spread on this market has widened. 70-80% of the samples seen so far have more than 10% bleaching.

The best quality samples could be worth £50/t more than those destined for feed. That said, only about 20% of the estimated sample numbers have been seen so far. Badly bleached samples are likely to fetch as low as £155/t ex and with later movement.

With grocery and export market quality samples as high as £210/t ex, the micronising market and canning samples are somewhere in between - perhaps £185/t ex.

Quality specifications for Yellow peas are simpler and without the issue of colour retention. Early harvest yields looked promising and have generally not disappointed. Combined with an increase in UK crop area, the UK demand will be fulfilled.

Yellow peas are the mainstay of the world market in pea trade and are subject to world market price swings to a greater extent than blues and marrowfats. Yields in France and other areas of Europe are reported to be up, and supply and demand shortages of the last couple of seasons have begun to even themselves out.

Open market prices have fallen back but remain promising at around £170-£180/t ex depending upon the sample cleanliness.


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.