“With some harvesting of winter beans having taken place in July – exceptionally early – the fact that there are spring beans still up to three weeks away from cropping in Scotland is making the harvest a rather more prolonged affair than normal,” comments Roger Vickers, Chief Executive of PGRO. “That said, it must be remembered that almost all crops have matured early this year and it is the remaining spring beans that are on a more ‘normal’ trajectory.

“Beans in the southern half of England have generally yielded well, but significant problems with bruchid beetle damage have seen almost 80% fail to make the grade for human consumption. 

However, high hopes remain for the northern crop, traditionally coming from regions far less prone to bruchid activity and the resulting holes they create in the grains. There remains the possibility of staining if mature crops with split pods stand wet for a prolonged period. 

“Crops reported so far have seen winter beans generally outperform spring beans. Winter beans are averaging about 5t/ha, with spring beans perhaps a tonne behind. The range of performance has again been significant with 2.5t/ha up to 8t/ha reported - not only grower-by-grower but in some cases crop-by-crop, depending upon local circumstances.

“Harvest in the Baltic States is reported to have been delayed significantly by bad weather, and the absence of their new crop in the market has given a small boost to UK bean export opportunities. It is also casting doubt over the already uncertain Baltic quantity and quality. Weather-delayed harvesting means just 20% of their crop has been taken. The effect of their inclement weather on the remaining mature crop can only be negative for quality.

“Pea crops have been extremely variable too and the quality – especially of marrowfat peas - will have been very disappointing for many growers. Both blues and marrowfats were compromised by the wet weather at harvest, which resulted in significant bleaching. This was reported in last month’s bulletin, and with most samples now seen, the picture remains unchanged.” 

Franek Smith, President of BEPA, reports that values for Feed Beans remain more or less unchanged on the month, though a stronger sterling is putting a little downward pressure on the feed export opportunities. As a result, this is holding up interest from UK feed markets, which are perhaps hoping to see the price fall from the current level of £150-155/t ex.

A lower availability of human consumption grade means more beans are headed for the feed market, which is another potential weight on the price. To date, approximately 50,000t has been committed to Italian and Spanish markets on the back of weaker sterling. This interest may slacken if the recent currency rally continues and would put backpressure on price in the domestic market.

With quality of Human Consumption Beans lower than 12 months ago, and doubt about the remainder to be harvested both here and in the Baltic, prices for human consumption have risen. The importance of representative sampling cannot be overemphasised. Ensuring quality is uniform throughout the heap is necessary to avoid unexpected rejection. Pressure to deliver against commitments has driven current premiums - reported ranging from £10 to £25/t depending on visual appearance - a rise of up to £15 in the month. Buyers in Egypt apparently aware of the quality uncertainty, appear to be maintaining interest despite the strengthening currency against the US Dollar. With quantity, quality and currency even more uncertain than normal it is hard to put a clear direction on values. Perhaps sellers hedging their bets are taking a wise decision.

Turning to Combining Peas, in general crop quality has been disappointing with yields very variable depending upon region. An average yield in 2017 appears to have been about 3 to 3.5t/ha with a range of 1t/ha to 6.7t/ha.

A general note for all peas downgraded to feed quality is that there are few homes for feed peas - feed beans being preferred in general. This is because beans offer a more consistent supply and have a higher protein concentration. This is likely to result in any feed pea prices being at a discount to feed beans.

Around 90% of Marrowfat Pea samples seen have excess bleaching (>10%), preventing them from reaching export standards. Yields have average around 3.2t/ha. Values range from top quality at around £230/t ex for export through to £170/t for canning quality and down to £145/t for feed grade peas.

Although Large Blue Peas are also taking a quality hit, there is a larger proportion of good quality large blues available. Approximately 70% have excess bleaching (>10%). Average yields were around 3.2t/ha. Values hold at about £210/t for the best quality. Other values are similar to the marrowfats.

Yellow peas are a small market with a relatively small number of so far inactive sellers. Currently values are stable at circa £180/t ex. Markets still remain quiet with little activity.

NOTE: DEFRA published the 2017 June Survey crop area during September.
Bean area is reported at a rise of 8.7% to 188,700 ha, with a fall of 21.6% for Peas to 39,200ha