PULSE MARKET UPDATE – FEBRUARY 2022
It continues to be remarked how mild and dry the winter has been to date, and with autumn sown crops looking generally excellent, it is hard to see many growers deciding to rip them out and plant pulses instead.
At this stage despite the huge hikes in ammonium nitrate prices and raised awareness that pulse crops provide a valuable soil fertility boost and nitrogen for the following crop, the most likely outcome for UK 2022 pulse crop area is to remain around the same as last year.
Values for arable commodities have been volatile but have generally remained high since harvest 2021. Pulse crop values rose with them, however since mid-December they have been more or less stable. Whilst the immediate peak values may have tailed off, there has been generally far less volatility than crops traded in futures markets. There remain wide differences in the size estimates of the UK pulse harvest 2021.
Since the turn of the year, it has been confirmed that the UK appears to be the only real source of faba beans for the European feed market, and the Australian bean crop has been confirmed to be almost as large as the previous year. Earlier estimates had forecast a significant fall in availability from Australia, and arrival on the market was delayed by wet weather at harvest and logistical issues, but produce has now arrived and has quietened human consumption export demand.
The UK produced a large crop in 2021 which is moving slowly but steadily. Domestic usage has shown a significant uplift year on year to date, and there is export demand in the European feed destinations but in general trade has been slowed by the need to move produce already sold.
There remain significant quantities unsold on farm and especially in areas from Lincolnshire and further north growers appear to be hanging on to produce in the hope of realising a premium for human consumption markets. Growers looking to supply beans to the feed market could expect offers in the region of £250/t ex farm. The top of this historically strong market so far was pre-Christmas 2021, but values have only slid by about £5/t.
The value of alternative protein sources will always influence feed bean values, and despite the recent significant rally in Soya due to reduced new crop forecasts and rising Oilseed Rape meal values, the current bean prices are starting to look like they have peaked. UK produced DDGS are also now available as a biproduct from the resumption of biofuel Ethanol production, and these too have a downward drag on bean values. Prices to European feed export destinations are influenced by peas as an alternative and beans arriving at EU destinations remain just about competitive, with peas remaining short.
The winter sown crops look good and the area to be planted in spring is uncertain. Any grower looking to sell crop 2022 at this early stage might reasonably expect a £30 premium over November wheat futures, which would value beans at £225/t ex farm. Few growers will take this option, as most prefer to market their produce once it has been harvested.
Human Consumption Beans
The peak values in this market reached over £315/ t ex farm before the turn of the year, when alternative sources were very limited. Since then, well over 100,000 tonnes have been shipped from Australia and a further 30,000 tonnes from the UK. Values fell and the market has gone quiet as a result. Currently offers with a premium over feed beans few and far between. This market has no futures system to guide forward values, and as a result buyers appear to operate and react quite spontaneously. Significant consumption takes place in the period around Ramadan, and this falls early in April 2022. If the market is to pick up it is likely to be for movement after that. However, it is also unlikely that the highs already seen will return for old crop.
With a nominal premium of £20/t, beans for human consumption might have a value of £270/t ex farm but currently buyers are hard to find.
In high demand, open market marrow fat growers have a valuable product to offer with parcels having traded at almost £500/t ex farm, with some growers holding out for more.
The cautionary note is that forward contracting for this relatively small crop is significantly higher than that secured for crop 2021 and, closer to harvest the old crop values will fall below new contract productions.
The current situation is very unusual and whilst values have risen in recent years, marrow fat pea production from crop 2021 was very small with the trade unable to secure more than half of the estimated area required.
Contracts for crop 2022 are still available but, with limited seed availability, are harder to find. Values range between £350 – £400/t ex farm varying, depending upon the level of deduction clauses included.
Quality is critically judged upon waste, stain, colour retention / bleaching, soaking and cookability.
Green / Blue peas
This market remains relatively unexciting. In general supplies remain plentiful and trading subdued. The market lacks volatility and values continue to range between £300/t ex farm at the top end to £245/t ex farm for badly bleached samples. Below that the feed market offers are around £235/t ex farm.
New min/max contracts are available with potential values from £235/t to £285/t ex farm depending upon quality clauses.
The value for yellow peas has been on a roller coaster ride with some short sellers having bid well over the real market price to complete their orders. With this distortion out of the way the market is now more stabilised around £280/t to £300/t ex farm depending upon the sample. It is unusual for yellow peas in the UK to carry a significant premium over green peas and not a situation that is likely to become an established norm any time soon.
Contracts for 2022 production are available with values around £270/t ex farm, but location and clauses for waste and stain will of course have an impact on values.
There remains little new demand for Maple peas and it is believed that there are no free market samples yet unsold. Nominally, good quality of variety Rose, might trade for £300/t ex farm with variety Mantara at a £25/t discount. Variety Rose is the preferred selection for export, while Mantara is the mainstay of the domestic bird feed market, especially for pigeons.
A niche market sector, contracting for crop 2022 is largely complete.