With harvest now complete, I am pleased to say that my statement in the market prospect article in the spring that: “… the 2019 pulse harvest looks significantly more promising than harvest 2018 …” turned out to be true, saidLewis Cottey, President of Pulses UK “There were some excellent winter bean yields with some growers reporting over 7.5t/ha and spring bean yields were reasonable for most. The result is an average UK bean yield that some feel may be a record. Pea crops did not produce record yields but still performed well.
“The quality of the bean crop has not been so pleasing. Whilst bruchid beetle damage was not as high as last year, bruchid damage (in both winter and spring beans) and staining (in winter beans) meant that over 85% of samples are only suitable for the feed market. Pea quality, on the other hand, was very good with the majority of the crop suitable for human consumption and excellent colour in most samples despite wet weather throughout harvest.
“With confirmation of larger crops, UK pulse prices have come under pressure since harvest, so where do we go from here?
“Beans remain an expensive protein source relative to other mid-range proteins and do not calculate for most feed rations. If this remains the case, the UK has at least 200,000mt of feed quality beans that will need to be exported. UK shippers have been very active pre-Brexit with up to 75,000mt of feed shipped in September and October alone, but there is less business on the books November onwards. The UK is the cheapest origin with greatest availability so is likely to capture any further export demand, but prices for feed are unlikely to rally.
“Human consumption demand also looks subdued in the short term, with Egypt well stocked with Baltic origin beans pre-Christmas. The Australian harvest will have started by the time you are reading this, and the size of this crop – of which pre-harvest estimates are wide ranging – will be the next driver of prices.
“Prices for green peas are also unlikely to rally. Stocks of both large blue and marrowfat peas look set to rise after several years of decline which should keep a lid on prices for the remainder of the year.
“Looking ahead to next year, the pulse area for harvest 2020 looks set to grow, and to a greater extent than we thought six months ago.
“With cabbage stem flea beetle spreading throughout the UK into Scotland and the confirmation of pyrethroid-resistant beetles in the UK, some growers who have become despondent with the challenges of growing OSR crops have switched to pulses as an alternative break crop.
“With a larger planted area for peas and beans expected, prices for new crop buybacks are slightly weaker than the highest priced buybacks of harvest 2018. However, pulse crops still represent solid gross margins on the farm, particularly when the benefit of the pulse crop to the following wheat crop is considered.”