Storage warning on UK pulse crop quality and value

The turn of the year saw pulses maintain a premium over cereals, although at the same lower levels, notes the British Edible Pulse Association (BEPA). Growers with crop in store should ensure quality is maintained over the next few months, warns the Processors and Growers Research Organisation (PGRO).

Feed bean values at the end of the year were around £120-£125/tonne ex farm, a premium over feed wheat of some £18/tonne notes BEPA president Chris Collings. Prices have fallen in line with other commodity prices and the increased supply of pulses since the 2015 harvest, with a higher proportion of feed quality grades following the wet, late harvest. But there is good local feed industry demand for pulses, he says.

“The market for feed beans continues to enthusiastically support the available crop,” adds Roger Vickers, PGRO chief executive. “Quality has been a major problem for many who took a late harvest. Even the colour of the very best quality beans will slowly deteriorate in storage, whilst wet beans and beans that had to be extensively dried are likely to oxidise much quicker, making their suitability for the human consumption market more doubtful as the winter progresses. For feed use, these issues are of little relevance and the market presents a valuable and welcome home.”

However, with currency factors slowing export sales, quality crops aimed at the human market are being held in storage for a longer period, Mr Vickers continues. Growers and their marketing advisers will need to consider carefully whether their crops will hold visual quality through the winter to achieve a premium, or whether to go for a feed outlet now.

On the combining pea market, marrowfat pea values of £275/tonne delivered are underpinned by exports to the Far East, with sufficient UK supplies for a small carryover into the 2016 crop year. Prices are expected to drift towards new crop values of up to £290/tonne ex-farm as the season progresses.

 Large blue pea values are continuing to weaken for anything other than top quality, with the market oversupplied and a “significant” carry over likely. Unusually, yellow/white peas are currently trading at a £10-£15/tonne premium to feed blues, which are seeing a £20/tonne discount to good quality produce at circa £133-£138/tonne ex-farm.

Elsewhere in Europe, France has a surfeit of poor quality beans and appears unable to compete in the human consumption whole bean markets – but this could see French feed beans dumped at cheap prices onto the UK feed market. Lithuanian crop is believed to be of good quality, but is limited in volume as is Eastern European production generally. UK produce is still preferred.

The overall message is that pricing, market and political issues mean that growers must not only focus on maximising yield and quality at harvest, but also on retaining quality in storage, stress the two bodies.

Looking ahead, growers considering marketing strategies for 2016 crops could consider the option of selling forward. With premiums of circa £20/tonne over November 2016 wheat futures available, this would value feed beans at around £148/tonne.