The UK Pulse harvest is probably only just starting for the majority, August has been so cool, we are perhaps 3 weeks behind what is ‘normal’, with just 20% through. Whilst south of the midlands, most have harvested their winter beans and peas, crops of these remain to be taken further north and very few have taken their spring beans yet. In recent years we have become accustomed to an earlier crop but in reality, to be at this stage at the opening of September was considered normal in former years. Early indications are that yields are likely to be above average, however as the trade has seen few samples at this stage it would be premature to declare the year a winner. Initial suggestions for peas are perhaps 15% up, although there is a wide spread of both yield and quality, and it is too early to even guess beans. We still await the official update on the 2021 national crop area, as the DEFRA June survey is not yet released.

Rumours suggest that the crop in the Baltic states has been down this year which may assist demand for UK production and there are early suggestions that they have suffered issues with insect damage and significant skin staining, as they have in France. Australian producers are expecting another sizable bean crop. However poor commodity prices have seen some growers drift to other commodities. A crop of around 430,000t is anticipated with a lot riding on good rainfall to finish. This compares with around 500,000 tonnes produced from their 2020 harvest.

All of this means that some of the more traditional market opportunities for UK pulses could well return in the autumn, but of course we still need to see the produce and the quality. Currency values remain favourable for exports but does not need to strengthen further. There are some in the market who view the performance of UK pulses as likely to be better than many other crops this year and are anticipating an increase in the winter bean crop area for 2022.

UK Pulses

Feed Beans
With values in the futures market for wheat high, application of a £35/t premium over November futures values beans around £227/t ex farm with deductions for earlier movement. Whilst prices have been at this level for some time now, European export demand appears to remain good, with opportunities for a number of uses including flours, flaking and regular feed markets. However, for UK feed markets some consumers are finding alternatives increasingly attractive, especially Rapeseed meal.

With so much uncertainty about the level and quality of the remaining crop it remains to be seen whether these values will be maintained at this level. The market is still finding its feet!

Human Consumption Beans
Few samples of spring beans have been seen and representative quality is unknown. Winter bean samples are more plentiful but still slow coming forwards. Early sightings indicate that Bruchid damage is lower than in recent years, but still present. It is anticipated that the best crops will come from the northern half of the UK, insect pressure usually being lower north of the Humber region.

Enquiries have tentatively been received from Egyptian buyers with the indication that the market may be open for up to 100,000 tonnes from the UK this autumn. With no firm orders, few farmers selling, feed values high and so much of the harvest still unknown it would take a brave merchant to commit to a fixed premium for human consumption export at this stage.

Combining Peas
A similar situation exists to the beans. There remain crops further north, as yet unharvested. Those already in the barn vary greatly in both their yield and quality, making trends in values difficult to evaluate. As is so often said here, the pea market is in part strongly governed by contract prices determined prior to sowing.

Marrowfat peas
On the whole yields have been above average but the crop area has been very disappointing this year and produce will be in short supply. The trade remains eager to sign growers to attractive contracts for 2022 production and beyond.

Growers of free market marrowfat peas in 2021 are almost certainly sitting on an appreciating asset, assuming the crop is of good quality and now safely in the barn.

Anyone with product to sell would be advised to contact their merchant with a sample for a valuation.

Green / Blue peas
Green peas are more plentiful in the market and values for the best quality produce for human consumption are likely to be around £250 – £260/t ex farm. Poor quality samples ending in the feed market may expect a discount to feed bean values at perhaps £215/t ex farm.

Early samples reveal that 2021 quality is variable with perhaps 30% being good and the remainder with varying degrees of bleaching. The market is still establishing however, with few growers keen to sell at this early stage.

Yellow peas
Yellow peas are the produce of choice for flour manufacturers and pea protein fractionation. The imminent rise in the importance of the yellow pea has been talked of for a long time. Is this the year that we see a real start in that direction

Yellow pea prices have risen significantly and are currently around £250/t ex farm. There appear to be very few sellers emerging at this early stage. They are in demand!

Despite the small market, breeders have been active in this crop sector and the quality of the varieties in the descriptive list has increased significantly in recent times. There are some very high yielding types with good visual appearance.

Crop 2022 contracts are available.

Maple peas
Contracts for crop 2022 are not yet being offered.