Both the British Edible Pulse Association (BEPA) and the Processors & Growers Research Organisation (PGRO) have highlighted positive signs for the pulse sector following a disappointing season in 2006, noting that higher contract prices have rekindled grower interest in the crops.
The groups’ optimism is based on “intrinsic attractiveness of UK crops” for a range of markets, both at home and overseas. The PGRO has identified several expanding markets for the sector — such as feed-quality beans that exploit GM-free status — but through new varieties and added value produce it is particularly hopeful for crops for premium human consumption.
Increased trading in marrowfat peas is expected with demand driving contract prices to £140-160 per tonne, though pale samples are proving difficult to move. The large blue pea is also fetching a healthy £150 per tonne. The message from the PGRO is: “If you only grow pale marrowfats, move to large blues — they are easier to grow, higher yielding and have a real value for micronising and export.”
PGRO council member Paddy Barrett said he saw 2007 as an exciting time for the pulse industry. He added: “I hope that growers will take advantage of new varieties, new contracting arrangements and new markets.
“This way, we can ensure that pulses make a positive contribution to farming profitability.”
Spalding-based pulse processor and BEPA member Dunns is already seeing this happen. Pulse director Phil Rix said: “Pulses have not been top of the agenda for some growers following a couple of seasons of poor yield but the majority of our contract growers will be producing pulses again this year.
“Whether growing winter beans, spring beans or peas, there are value-added crops that can be produced in this sector. New varieties are helping this trend, and our growers are approaching the year ahead with optimism.”
While this year’s spring bean crops have suffered thanks to last summer’s drought conditions and bruchid beetle infestation, crops in the North and western areas of the country have fared better and are expected to fetch good prices in the important export trade to Egypt.
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