Feed bean demand doubles in 2015, and could rise further

Traders expect the pulse crop area for harvest 2016 to be similar to that of last year, with some concern over the effect of later sowings on pea yields. Meanwhile, a well supplied old crop bean market is seeing values fall.

"With spring bean drilling in full swing for the 2016 crop, the market is looking forward to a similar area to that harvested in 2015,” comments Processors and Growers Research Organisation (PGRO) chief executive Roger Vickers.  “That said, the area is not accurately understood and the winter bean crop area is believed to be a little less than in 2015. Also, the cold start to spring and delays to early pea sowings whilst soil conditions improve are raising questions about any potential yield impact. The last two years have seen generally good crop performances for pulses in the UK - will the coming months be similarly conducive to yields?”

On the marketing side, Chris Collings, president of the British Edible Pulse Association (BEPA), notes the domestic bean market seems to be well supplied in all areas at present. This has seen prices fall slightly in the last month after a significant rise since the New Year.

 “Old crop requirements for feed beans for the January-April period have largely been covered, so prices have hardly changed and remain in the range of around £120-£130 ex-farm depending upon the location,” he says. “Demand will typically fall as cattle turn out to grass from the end of April. We estimate that feed demand has at least doubled year-on-year:  buyers like the product in terms of processing and feed quality, and they are now looking to cover requirements over the summer. This is all good news and providing strong assurances for utilisation of crop 2016.”

New crop feed beans are at a premium of approximately £25/tonne over feed wheat.

However, the market for human consumption beans appears to be temporarily oversupplied, with other destinations competing with UK exports. Values have slipped from recent highs of £160/tonne to current levels of £145/tonne ex-farm.

Lithuanian product is again likely to compete with ULK beans in Egypt, with bruchid-free samples and a lower price for early movement, but the origin has yet to build the UK’s reputation for consistency and reliability, continues Mr Collings.   BEPA expects export demand in excess of 240,000 tonnes of UK beans subject to quality, with reports that the French crop area is likely to be down further and no increase in the Lithuania and North East Europe area.

Turning to combining peas, any free market marrowfat peas that remain could command £275-£300/tonne ex-farm.  New crop contract values remain at £280-£300/tonne ex-farm.

Large blue old crop is worth between £145-£170/tonne, with new crop trading at £160-£200/tonne ex-farm, depending upon quality and location. But there is currently no trade in the UK for yellow peas, Mr Collings concludes.  The unexpectedly higher than normal values seen in 2015 are less likely for new crop, with large and normally strong production areas able to meet demand.