"Since the more or less stagnant days at the end of the year, a lot has changed in pulse markets," comments Roger Vickers, Chief Executive of PGRO. "Confirmation of a huge crop of good quality Faba beans in Australia has had a significant effect on the UK export markets, while a shortage of beans on offer in the domestic market has impacted the values for feed."
Chris Collings, President of BEPA, reports that the Australian crop is estimated at between 550-600,000 tonnes, perhaps the largest on record, with exceptional yields in 2016 of 2.5t/ha from the same crop area. This means some focus has been taken off more immediate European competitor origins. Meanwhile, the main export market buyers have been in significant difficulty with yet further weakening of the Egyptian pound. In some cases, indebtedness has more than doubled almost overnight, and some importers are believed to be unable to honour their contracts.
The Sudanese market - smaller but still important – is now effectively closed as the annual February delivery window shuts to protect domestic production.
The continuing rise in oilseed rape prices has furthered Faba bean demand by the UK feed industry and short sellers have been forced back into the market to cover their commitments. This is in the context of oilseed rape production being 30% down in 2016, based on Defra farming statistics, while pulse crop sowing forecasts for 2016-17 vary between plus 10% to minus 6%, emphasising that there are a lot of cropping decisions still to be made.
The market for Human Consumption Beans is apparently almost closed through lack of buyers and extreme competition with good quality availability from Australia, as a result, UK exports are about half of those a year ago.
This time last year, Australian 'fiesta' beans commanded a premium to UK origin of US$100/t. A year later the premium is just US$15/t. Australian beans are generally perceived of top quality, being of generally larger size, colour and bruchid free.
Values have been eroded by supply volumes and market demand. Where offers can be found, values are currently trading at circa £160/t ex farm - which represents as little as a £5/t premium. Late sellers for human consumption may see premiums eroded completely.
Trade for crop 2017 is being made in this market with max/min offers of £10-£40 premiums over November feed beans, with a base price of £152 ex farm.
Feed Beans continue to be in demand. Some short sellers are being forced to cover commitments at higher prices, which is in turn persuading some growers to hang on further. Feed prices have risen significantly in recent weeks and are now around £155/t ex farm for March collection. Rising commodity prices elsewhere are also helping to present beans as an attractive option as feed ingredients, further supporting demand. The value of Sterling means UK suppliers are able to capitalise on any export feed opportunities.
Feed bean trade for crop 2017 is already taking place, with offers in the region of £152/t ex farm, circa £12-£15 over November wheat futures.
Marrowfat peas see traders still clearing their contracts, and open market sellers aiming to reach premium human consumption markets may be finding it hard to move produce. The situation remains unchanged from recent reports.
Contracts for 2017 production are available, though now very limited. Quality parameters may be very specific concerning waste and damage. Contract values circa £235-240/t ex farm with wide movement windows. The market for Large blue peas is strong - especially for good quality. Feed quality is discounted to beans and values are circa £147/t ex farm. Bleached samples (>10%) that soak and cook well can reach £178/t ex, whilst the very best quality - now hard to find - are fetching circa £210-215/t ex farm.
Contracts for crop 2017 are available with likely min/max offers circa £170 - £200/t ex farm with options for movement before May.
No trade is reported for Yellow peas. Strong demand has seen all offers of sale absorbed earlier in the season. Parcels available are estimated at £40/t over feed.
Contracts are available for crop 2017 with nominal values estimated at circa £170/t plus.