“Harvest began in great conditions even though recent weeks have brought catchy weather, ” comments Roger Vickers, Chief Executive of PGRO. “Samples of peas and beans so far seen by the trade have generally been good - and there is a welcome increase in both quality and quantity of marrowfat peas.
“While poor conditions at harvest can adversely affect quality - peas in particular can be quick to bleach and discolour - the majority of the UK pea crops are now in store, those remaining inevitably being further north.
“Winter beans are approximately 50% harvested - but the spring crop has barely begun - perhaps just 5% has been cut. Despite the recent rains, conditions have not yet affected the quality of the majority of bean crops - winter bean samples with a bright tan finish and a hint of green colour have been the norm with less than average bruchid beetle damage.”
Mr Vickers points out it is still too early for definitive comment on the outcome of harvest as a whole with crops yet to be cut and so many samples to be evaluated. Crops have looked good all through the growing season and early indications are optimistic for yields above average, though in the case of marrowfat peas a few percentage points may have been lost with premature senescence during the peak of the heat in July, and peas in the south east may have yielded a little lower than anticipated.
Chris Collings, President of BEPA, points out that as with all crops, when prices fall, yield and quality remain the key to maintaining margins: “With harvest not complete, and the trading year only just starting, there is a long way to go and much can change. Growers yet to combine should prioritise achieving good quality to the last cut of harvest.
“Looking at feed beans, the base value has followed wheat futures down, however, significant premium remains. Currently, ex farm values hover around £130/tonne. At this level there has been considerable interest from the feed compounders for use in cattle and pig diets, displacing rape and soya meal. Buyers have shown a real appetite for the product and would appear to have laid a sustainable base for the market. This is excellent news for the market for both the current crop, and that of 2016.”
For human consumption beans, uncertainty around availability and quality from other markets remains. However, the UK crop is still in demand and the issue slowing brisk trade is the availability of currency for payment. Combined with UK produce quality being good so far, the supply and demand situation is likely to put downward pressure on premiums in the short term, currently running at circa £20-£25/tonne.
Marrowfat peas remain in demand with prices ranging from £300 - £330/tonne ex depending upon quality and it is thought that this value will be maintained.
Large blue pea prices suffered towards the end of the trading of crop 2014 and they remain under pressure. Low quality peas - typically bypassed vining peas - put a base price in the feed market discounted below feed beans at circa £120/tonne ex. With some excellent blue pea yields, with many over 5t/ha and some reported at circa 7t/ha, there is significant downward pressure. Prices range between £140-£160/tonne ex depending upon quality - but for really poor crops the feed pea price beckons.
“As for all pulse crops, we continue to stress that margins are dictated by yield and quality,” adds Mr Collings.