“As of late September it seems that the majority of pulse crops are harvested with perhaps 20-30% of the spring beans still to come in,” comments Roger Vickers, Chief Executive of PGRO. “These are largely crops north of the Midlands, but in isolated cases further south there are crops still standing.
“It looks like the national crop will perform above average, although yield reports have been mixed. Peas and beans in the far south east of the country have yielded less than average - probably due to the heat and water stress experienced in the early July period. But on a positive note, crops from the Midlands northwards benefitted from the cooler summer months and minimal water deficit, with many growers experiencing above average yields - and in some instances extraordinary crops. “The catchy weather has pushed back bean harvests at least three weeks compared to last year and has resulted in many cut crops with high moisture content. Mature bean crops that suffered repeated wetting and drying have withstood the conditions better than might have been feared. Bruchid damage has predictably been worse in the south than the north, but generally lower than average. The result is a significant spread in quality with a clear distinction between crops that will go for feed and the best for human consumption.
“The recently published data for England, from the DEFRA June census, suggests a 37% rise in pea area with a 59% rise for beans. Whilst in percentage terms these are large increases, it must be remembered that the crop areas have been recovering from an historic low and are still behind the areas sown just five years ago and considerably behind that of 15 years ago. In 2015, the combined pulse area grown is quoted at 206,000 ha, whereas in 2009 this stood at circa 220,000 ha and in 2001 circa 270,000 ha.”
Looking at domestic markets, Chris Collings, President of BEPA, comments that the base value of feed beans has continued to follow other commodities and in particular wheat. “With wheat hovering at just under £100/tonne, the premiums for feed beans continue to hold at circa £25/tonne ex farm. These prices are considerably less than from recent harvests - but remember that pulse premiums over wheat are maintained and simply reflect the decreased value put on all commodity grains at this time.”
Those with beans of moisture content over the contracted norm of 15% will have little chance of meeting the human consumption market until they are dry and must focus on maintaining quality in the drying process. With a larger crop and significant availability, beans are now an attractive prospect for feed, and buyers have been actively committing to the market. This is good news for growers, demonstrating there is a market for this produce and, whilst prices are lower, the outlet for beans is a secure one for harvests ahead. The trade remains enthusiastic and optimistic.
For Human consumption beans, hard currency availability is limiting the opportunity for bulk vessel shipments to Egypt at the present time. If and when this will ease is uncertain. There is sufficient UK crop of good quality to meet potential demand, but with the issues of payment a concern with Egypt, it is possible that the UK will ship less produce this year. Added to this is increased production from Central Europe and the Baltic States offered at a lower price. Values are holding up where export opportunities arise and a premium of circa £25/t over feed beans might be anticipated (circa £160 delivered). Trade in markets taking containerised product as opposed to bulk vessels remains brisk.
Marrowfat pea values remain good at circa £300/tonne, and taken as a whole, harvest has been the best since 2011 with many crops delivering over 6t/ha, with an average being 3.4t/ha. A small carryover of produce is likely before the arrival of crop 2016, but this is a desirable situation ensuring continuity of supply to buyers of UK produced peas. Colour and quality has been good with earlier harvested crops being the best. Pea moth has been significantly less of a problem, but remains an issue, and growers must remember to pay attention to this easily controlled pest in order to maintain values. Large blue peas appear to be in oversupply. Produce has been of good quality, but in recent years markets have moved away through lack of availability and it may be a while before they return realising a new supply situation. Potential export opportunities may open up with continuing issues surrounding Canadian suppliers. Values for feed are discounted to beans by circa £5/tonne and best quality samples for human consumption command a premium of £30-£40 which is approximately the historical norm, giving a value ex farm of circa £150/tonne.