British Edible Pulses Association (BEPA)uses of pulses

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.

BEPA President, Chris CollingsOur 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!

Chris Collings, President

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“As the pea harvest gets under way, with bean harvest to follow, this is a good time to underline the numerous benefits from growing pulses,” says Roger Vickers, PGRO Chief Executive. “Some have a clear financial value, while others are equally valuable but have less measurable monetary benefits.”

“PGRO’s Top 10 captures the benefits of pulse crops in providing growers an improved and more sustainable rotation with reduced inputs and improved returns across the lifetime of the rotation.”

1. £60/ha of free Nitrogen
A crop of beans or peas will fix approximately 250kgs of N/ha. Of course, significant amounts of this are used by the crop itself, however, the residue from a crop of beans is typically 50–75 kilos N/ha, worth around £60. This N is free, unlike any residual N from other non-leguminous crops which is derived from paid-for N applied to the previous crop.

2. £100/ha boost for following Winter Wheat crop
The boost that pulses give to the following crop – usually a winter wheat - is somewhere in the region of 10%, adding up to 700-1000kgs/ha on average. If we assume an 800 kg uplift in yield of feed wheat, then at current values, this would be circa £100/ha.

3. Blackgrass and weed control
Spring-grown pulses in particular open up an extended window for cultural and stale seedbed techniques in the fight against blackgrass and other pernicious weeds. Pulses also widen the choice of chemistry available for blackgrass control, giving the grower an improved approach to the problem. Severe blackgrass infestation can steal 30-50% of the wheat yield, so the benefit is enormous, let alone saving the £120/ha of chemical costs for blackgrass control

4. Cash flow benefit from reduced production cost
Pulses are rightly seen as a having a lower input cost than cereals, giving a positive benefit to cash flow as a result. Whilst a significant proportion of this cost saving is in the nil requirement for nitrogen application, it is the attention to detail and the application of required inputs at the time they are needed that will make all the difference when it comes to achieving good yields and top quality produce. Typical variable costs for beans at £231/ha and blue peas at £261/ha are significantly lower than, for example, winter oilseed rape at £439/ha) and winter wheat at £498/ha. Yet the resulting gross margins for pulses are amongst the very best of any arable crops in the UK

5. Spread the farm workload
The establishment of pulses is offset compared to most arable crops in the UK, and at the other end of the season, peas generally come to harvest relatively early with beans a little later. The combined effect stretches the crop workload across a wider activity window with decreased intensity.

6. Breaking the disease cycle in oilseed rape and cereals
In a cycle that involves oilseed rape, it is well recognised that disease pressure builds up – but by including a pulse crop in the rotation over a 5 year period, the disease pressure on the oilseed rape is significantly reduced. Pulses also reduce take all pressure in wheat and barley.

7. Soil texture improvement
It is regularly reported that, following a crop of pulses, the soil texture or crumb is dramatically improved, giving a finer more granular texture with improved moisture retentiveness and permeability. This improvement in soil conditions directly after the crop also allows a reduced cost approach to establishing the following crop as the ground is easily worked, requiring minimal cultivation.

8. Slug control
Crops following pulses seem to have a significantly reduced slug problem especially compared to crops following oilseed rape. Yet again, there is a yield benefit and a reduction in costs for the following crop.

9. Soil health improvement
Pulses are known to improve the microbial health of the soil. Just as they break the above-ground cycle of pest and disease of other crops, they improve the microbial balance of nature within the soil. This is another of those almost unquantifiable benefits that result in the yield boosts seen in crops with pulses in the rotation.

10. CAP reform EFA and diversification
As an additional ‘political’ benefit to add to the very positive agronomic benefits of pulses in points 1-9 above, there are the benefits of compliance with the 3-crop rule. Pulses at 5% of the arable area represent a clear opportunity to capitalise with a crop that easily and conveniently entitles the grower to qualify for the 30% greening payment in the BPS. Also pulses qualify as EFAs under the same reform process. So, in a single pulse crop of 5% of the arable area, a grower can comply with both the EFA and diversification requirements.

Pulse Market Update from BEPA and PGRO for July 2015, issued on 31 July

“The new crop of peas are upon us in some cases. The earliest crops will already have been safely gathered in cooler, kind conditions before the recent rain,” says Chris Collings, President of BEPA (British Edible Pulse Association).

“In the UK it has generally been a comfortable growing season for producers of peas and beans. A slow cool start gave cause for concern, but the crops seem to have got themselves set. Then when the temperatures rose, a regular supply of moisture allowed the crops to thrive. For both crops, disease intensity has generally been low, and apart from a massive late spike in black bean aphid pressure (and a temporary exhausting of national availability of pirimicarb products), so have pest levels. The trade remains optimistic for a good quality harvest with satisfying yields.”

Looking at international markets, he notes that French bean crops suffered in the flowering period from drought and high temperatures which exceeded 40C for several days at the end of June. The north western areas have fared better than the Paris basin region and further east. It is expected that the French bean crop may yield similar volumes from an increased crop area, but quality will again be poorer than desired. Bruchid beetle remains a continuing and dominant problem for French producers and will restrict their ability to access the North African export markets. Pea crops have similarly been affected, with the high temperatures limiting yield potential as pod set and flowering stopped early.

In Canada, the latest crop update details the increase in sown area of pulses and special crops over the last three years. Whilst 2013-2016 harvest year figures show an increase in actual and forecast crop area, the estimated yield per ha is decreasing and the total yield is predicted to fall consistently. Total production is set to fall from 6.8 million tonnes to 6.1 million tonnes in 2016. Persisting dry conditions are the headline reason suggested for this trend. Canadian green pea quality was variable in 2013/14, and as a result premium over yellow peas were lower than historically achieved. 2015/16 production of green peas is expected to fall. Low but increasing levels of interest in Faba bean production continue, especially in the state of Alberta. Canadian Faba beans are being offered to North African buyers.

In the USA, with reported expansion in Montana, the US crop area of peas is set to increase by around 7% next year, rising to a record 400,000ha. Production is expected to top 0.8 million tonnes.

Australian Faba bean production area rose 39% year on year with 228,200ha sown for crop 2015, the larger cropping areas being in New South Wales, South Australia and Victoria. Earlier in the year with some frantic talk of a strongly developing El Niño effect likely to impact Australia, there must have been some worried growers in the southern states. The crucial period for 2015 harvest is not over and many areas will need significant moisture during the flowering and pod fill period. Nine of the ten driest winter–spring periods on record for eastern Australia occurred during El Niño years. Although most major Australian droughts have been associated with El Niño, drought does not occur with every event, and the strength of an El Niño is not directly proportional to drought intensity. The official current outlook is for warmer temperatures and drier conditions in the south and east-the major Faba bean cropping areas.

In Egypt, issues relating to accessing hard currency have limited some trades in recent months and are not resolved, although reports indicate that the Egyptian economy is growing and is expected to be boosted in the coming months by large infrastructure projects. Egyptian population is 8 million larger than in 2010 at 86.7million. Demand will remain high, but it will be the availability of hard currency controlled by the government and competition amongst suppliers that will dictate the pace of trade in the new crop. The weakening value of Sterling will help exporters.

Chris Collings notes that, in the UK market, the overall picture for feed beans has not changed dramatically since the May market update: “There is continued pressure on the markets with the prospects of good supply forcing all prices down. Since May, the price for feed beans has fallen to below £160/t but in reality there has been little trade in the intervening period. Earlier commitments for November shipment agreed at £160/t look good as values have followed wheat down and now trade at circa £20 over November feed wheat futures.

“There is still some time to go until harvest and growers need to focus on maintaining what has generally been a good crop so far, with the market principally being driven by wheat values. There is confidence of supply in the market and UK feed compounders are now interested for ruminant rations.”

“For human consumption beans, as noted above, there is some uncertainty about the level of crop available from France and Australia and the quality of the produce that will be offered, hence UK produce will be in demand.

“Estimates of forward premiums for human consumption beans remain at £20 to £25/tonne over feed bean values but without trades. This puts current values at around £165/tonne ex farm.”

“It is anticipated that Baltic, Ukrainian & Polish production will be offered in bigger volumes this year as their 2014 crop was accepted by Egyptian markets. These are trading at a discount to the UK crop circa of around -£15/tonne. Canada produce is being sold at a premium since it is very close to the original Egyptian beans and appreciated by customers for size, quality and taste.

“The emphasis as we approach harvest has to be upon achieving the best quality, maximising yield, and taking the beans when they are ready. Fitting them in around other crops is a great gamble that can see premiums, markets and margins disappear in a flash. With larger crop areas in the ground and potentially more crop to harvest the emphasis on quality is a must for growers.”

For combining peas, the marrowfat story continues. Restricted for 2015 by seed availability, the situation is unlikely to alter dramatically from 2015 crop. With higher returns anticipated for good quality produce, over £300/tonne might be expected - but retaining a good visual sample is essential and cropping priorities need to be orientated towards achieving this. The trade anticipates a small carry over into the next harvest year ensuring the all-important continuity of supply in the supply chain for clients, that has for too long been missing.

As previously reported, some parts of the trade have received very significant interest in 2016 crop and in some cases have already closed their contract book. With area set to rise a little, growers are advised to check out contracts to secure the market for their produce. Marrowfat pea production carries some risk and requires high quality produce to command best values and returns: peas which fail to make the grade are likely to trade at a significant discount- below the value of feed beans. For blue peas, at the time of writing there is no news of new crop trades but old crop values have fallen to below £175/tonne ex with poor samples at less than £145/tonne.