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

“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.