Spring Bean’s – The UK’s Next Forgotton Crop?

Judging by the response we had to last week’s feature column regarding the UK barley market – and by the amount of spring bean samples which I have just had to clear from my desk to write, I thought there was really only one real topic for this week’s article (particularly as the grain trade in general has let another week pass with very little change to report on ex-farm prices).

Almost 300,000 hectares worth of spring beans were planted here in the UK earlier this year, the majority of which yielded beyond initial expectations after a more than favourable growing season.

Ex-farm values for the poorer quality feed samples have ranged anywhere between £210-30/T since June and those deemed good enough to export for human consumption achieved anywhere between £230-245/T (with current values at the lower end of this spectrum).

The majority of UK spring bean exports are destined for Egypt and buyer interest is currently very good – fortunate given the sheer volume available on the farm at the minute.

Egypt’s population currently stands at 85 million people, almost 25% of which live in the overcrowded capital of Cairo. Currently, 65% of the total population (that’s 52 million people) depend on food assistance; a heavily subsidised government hand-out system.

Consequently, cheap sources of protein such as pulses, beans and seeds are popular diet staples for many Egyptians – particularly the spring bean which is formally known to them as the “faba bean”.

Pre 1983, food imports were provided entirely by the government; post this point new legislation would allow various private companies to import into the country.

Egypt tends to grown somewhere around 120,000/T of faba beans each year whilst the UK, Australia and France account for another 600,000/T equally between them. Do the math and this equates to usage of an average of 2,000/T per day (in a population which continues to increase).

By 2044, Egypt’s population is expected to double to more than 170 million people and although the Nile delta contains some of the most fertile arable land of its kind, self-sufficiency, particularly given the current state of the country’s infrastructure isn’t exactly something to be easily achieved.

Last week brought the initial results of the HGCA’s ‘early bird survey – the first indication of the UK’s planting intentions. Given the ideal autumn conditions, winter plantings are set to increase with an estimated 1.98 million hectares worth of winter wheat going into the ground this back end, a 22% increase on last year. The intended winter barley is also set to increase to almost 500,000 hectares, a staggering 55% increase on last year.


Consequently, the area dedicated to spring cropping is undoubtedly set to decrease on the year previous. However, due to the disruption to preferred crop rotations last season, spring cropping looks set to resume to slightly above average levels rather than the below average levels that we had initially anticipated.

Currently there are excellent spring malting barley contracts available but for those of you who are looking for a break crop alternative, spring beans offer a profitable gross margin and an almost certain export market for the foreseeable.

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