For the majority the pulse harvest is over, with a few crops of beans still standing the further travelled north. The consensus is that yields have been much improved from crop 2020 and the quality is significantly better too, though of course there are always exceptions. The values for pulse crops have also risen, generally following the rise in other commodity grains.
Hot of the press come the DEFRA June survey figures for England, showing a small increase of 3.4% in bean area to 185,000 ha, and a higher than anticipated increase of 18.1% in the pea area to 60,000 ha. This should mean a significantly improved supply situation. Estimates in the trade vary widely but a crop of 650,000 to 750,000 tonnes of beans seems very likely.
Earlier suggestions that the crop in the Baltic states has been down this year are confirmed and it is thought that this is largely weather-related. Volumes may be as little as half, and quality is much poorer this year. Yields have also been poorer than normal in France. This is undoubtedly aiding demand for UK production. A gap now exists in the calendar when export is unchallenged by the Australian crop as it has yet to come to harvest although, following a large crop last year, significant stocks remain in the supply chain. Another sizeable crop is expected from Australia 2021 but at a lower level than from 2020.
Currency values remain favourable for exports following recent downturns in economic expectations from the market.
Topical in many ways, the underlying prospects for the market are clouded by issues concerned with the global post-covid recovery. Internationally shipping costs remain very high and the availability and cost of shipping containers is problematic, with delays in movement incurring additional demurrage charges. Road haulage is an issue, both domestically and on the continent. The new documentation requirements for movements to and from Europe are adding to the work load and the well-publicised shortage of HGV drivers is creating issues with collections from farm.
Issues around the lack of availability of nitrogen fertiliser and speculation about costs and energy values are fuelling interest in the pulse crop 2022, with suggestions that beans in particular will attract the attention of growers. It is believed that crop areas will hold up well and may grow further.
Export demand is good with pull from Europe driving prices up. Bean prices are being positively influenced by the high values for imported peas which are in short supply globally. These higher values are starting to put a break on demand in the domestic market for least cost formulated cattle rations, which compare protein values with alternative sources such as rape seed meal at around 35% protein. Whilst oilseed rape is at high values, the meal from crushers has not risen significantly, the price perhaps restrained by the continual need to shift the co-product.
Added costs associated with transport and an apparent lack of national product liquidity are for the first time in many years creating a significant difference in market opportunities, with local availability having a positive influence on some ex-farm prices. The later harvest, crops requiring additional drying and the urgent sowing of winter cereals are thought to be the reasons for generally slow selling by growers.
There are currently many uncertainties about the future direction of values. Ex- farm prices are currently around £230- £235/t but may vary by location.
New crop offers can be realised for growers looking to sell forward. Suggestions of £210/t ex- farm for November 2022.
Demand for human consumption beans is there, with recognition that the Baltic region will not be able to supply the same quantity as in recent years. UK quality is dramatically better than the last three years, with bright, clean, nicely coloured grain and many samples with Bruchid damage levels below 10%. A premium of £15 - £20 per tonne over feed might be expected, but as indicated above, location may be important for reasons concerning transport. The ability of the trade to persuade growers to sell and to ensure timely delivery before the Australian crop is available will determine how much is exported to this market.
The market for peas appears to still be finding its feet. The majority of crops are being settled within the boundaries of existing production contracts and, with few free market samples yet to be offered, it is hard to give a guide for values. Contracts for all types of peas are available at generally improved prices over 2021 crop.
There is little to add from the previous bulletin. Crop area was below the contract requirements and produce will be in short supply. As a result contracted crops are being taken with few penalty clauses enforced. Anyone with free market product to sell would be best advised to contact their merchant with a sample for a valuation. Early contracting for new crop is well ahead of the situation year on year, but there remains plenty of attractive opportunities for production contracts for 2022 and beyond.
Green peas are confirmed as more plentiful in the market and values have firmed only slightly in the last six weeks. The best quality produce for human consumption is likely to be around £266/t ex-farm. Poorest quality samples may be discounted well below feed beans. Green pea trade also remains slow.
There have been wild variations in yellow pea trades and it is uncertain where values in the open market sit. It appears to be dependent upon the urgency of need for the ultimate buyer. Offers might reasonably be expected in the region of £250/t ex-farm. As previously reported, with new and developing markets, they are likely to be a product in demand long-term, but more immediately as well due to lower availability from traditional production areas.
There are generally good stocks of maple peas and the market is niche and fully supplied by contracts. New crop contracts are available but only for the variety Rose.