Many minds may be focussed more on the logistical difficulties created by the late arrival of winter conditions than on the pulse market. However, there have been movements afoot during the month, and sellers should take note.
The Australian bean crop has been around 300,000 tonnes, approximately half that of 2016, returning to near normal levels. This may have some impact on prices going forwards. Meanwhile the effect of the Indian import tax (of 30-50% depending upon pulse type) is putting price pressure into the world market and a more negative attitude with Australian growers. France too is impacted by these import tariffs, as it exported over 100,000 tonnes of peas to India last year.
The UK feed market for beans is picking up as soya and rape meal values rise and significant feed compounders are looking to cover their summer requirements from beans as a good quality alternative.
The human consumption bean export market stalled some weeks ago with few if any sellers and buyers focused on Australian crop and the remnants of the Baltic harvest. This market rarely looks far forwards, and with Ramadan requirements covered, there has been little interest in UK as a source. There are, however, now slow signs of returning interest in what UK sellers can offer for May and June shipments.
Despite the wintry conditions, some growers have begun preparing land for spring sowing. The trade is still uncertain of the likely pulse area to be sown. Spring bean seeds are in demand - but with the perception that less seed crops were realised in 2018, seed availability may be no clear indication of likely sowings.
The increased demand and rising cost of alternatives has seen feed bean values sneak upwards to between £150-155/t ex farm. Regional variations and proximity to the end user are always influential.
Vegetable protein is in demand and prices have risen considerably. Soya having increased £50/t over the last 6 weeks (currently at around £340/t) and rape meal risen to almost £190/t. If this trend carries on, it will continue to stimulate compounder interest in UK feed beans.
Feed bean exports are now slowing, but interest remains, and there continues to be a succession of boats leaving with skinned beans for the fish feed market.
The outlook for crop 2018 could be considered optimistic. With feed November wheat prices apparently holding in the region of £135-140/t, trade offers for forward beans are being made at £155-160/t ex farm.
Growers driving for good yields may stand to reap a greater reward from the 2018 harvest and an even greater sustainability message.
Human Consumption Beans
There is tentative interest from buyers for May/June, but currently enquiries are for availability rather than actual trade. It is believed that there is little left in the UK of human consumption quality at this stage. But perhaps this is also the case elsewhere - in which case the importers may adopt a more pragmatic approach to quality and focus on colour rather than absolute minimal bruchid damage. No firm prices have been fixed, but perhaps up to £170/t ex farm could be achieved.
Forward prices for crop 2018 are available with a premium of £20 over feed beans. At current levels this could present a value of up to £180/t ex farm for November movement. It is believed there have been few takers to date.
The market continues to lack excitement.
There remain lots of pale samples from open market growers and the market is somewhat stagnant.
The trade remains certain that there will be less produced in 2018 despite contracts being offered at £240-250/t. Various penalty clauses and/or bonus propositions give a range potential of perhaps £60/t.
It is forecast that by 2019 crop contract prices will have risen significantly higher as both carryover stocks and production levels fall through 2018.
Large Blue Peas
Of the three quality categories, the best samples - those with good colour, cooking and soaking characteristics - have been unseen since the turn of the year. If available, they could demand up to £240/t ex farm giving a market spread of around £75/t.
The second tier, suitable for micronizing, are also few and far between - from £165/ t ex farm upwards depending upon quality and location.
The third tier for the canning market is oversupplied and will command little above £165/t ex farm.
Peas for the feed market will trade at a discount to feed beans.
Various buyback options for crop 2018 are available based upon on a min/max between £180 – 240 ex farm based upon sample submitted and quality deductions.
The trade is unaware of any in the market and no immediate requirement for movement. The issue with India already mentioned has killed the international market for the time being. Growers would be wise to produce to a contract in 2018. Contracts are currently being offered from £165 ex farm. Domestic production for UK use will continue to have demand from 2018.
Winter Beans - Herbicide note:
Be aware that proud beans may have become damaged by the recent snow dump. Take note of the crop condition before making agronomy decisions. Damaged crops may be stressed and prone to disease attack. Look out for early ingress of chocolate spot.
As we head in to March the temptation will be to dive into drilling ASAP. Peas and Beans hate compaction and do not thrive best when drilled into cold and/or wet soils. There is no immediate rush.
The good news is that he cold snap may have help reduce overwintered pest numbers, especially aphids.