Dry puts heat into faba bean market

Henry and Liz Wells, April 23, 2018

PRICES for faba beans have jumped around $20 per tonne in the past 10 days as the much-anticipated autumn break fails to appear on forecasts, and graziers in many parts of New South Wales look to secure feed for their livestock.

Photo: Masoud Hashemi

On-farm prices for faba beans have now breached $300/t, and are trading at up to $320/t for the premium No. 1 grade delivered to container packers, who are seeing minimal volumes offered as grower-to-grower sales keep tonnage away from the trade.

Feed-grade faba beans are now fetching $310-$320/t on-farm, also up significantly as the colder weather nears and chances of rain boosting pasture growth in warm weather fade.

Conqueror Milling general manager, Alistair Pennington, said the company was still buying faba beans in NSW to supply its Cootamundra mill on the southwest slopes of NSW, but it was facing increased competition from livestock producers who were looking for a high-protein feed option.

“It’s a thinly traded market, and I’m getting very few offered to me because there’re a lot of grower-to-grower sales taking place.”

Planting window

Mr Pennington said prospects for an average-sized planting of faba beans in South Australia, Victoria and southern NSW were still alive and well, but the area was likely to be down in central and northern NSW because of continuing dry conditions.

“Canola sowings are already back, and faba beans are going to get knocked out because growers will be looking at winter cereals they can plant later.

“You can pretty comfortably say that the crop of beans in the north is going to be back enormously and I would be inclined to think central NSW will be back considerably too.

“There’s still enough time to plant in the south, and we’ve had plenty of years with tight autumns that have finished with a strong spring.”

Mr Pennington said many growers were holding on-farm stocks of faba beans, and prices at current levels were in line with their selling targets.

The high values would also encourage growers to plant in 2018, season permitting.

“I think there’ll be a winter break, a crop will go in, and stock will come to the market, but that will be the last buying opportunity before harvest,” he said.

“It’s setting the picture that pulses are going to be short in the medium-term.

“I think a large volume of pulse stocks will have been consumed in stockfeed, more than people estimate.”

No export surplus in the north

NSW-based broker, Ian Mallon, said containerised faba beans were now trading at as much as $50-$70/t above their lows of the 2017 harvest period.

“Feed demand/values mean  beans in the north will not  find their way to export, and it is not easy to get offers now.”

“Undoubtedly there will still be product out there, but I don’t think too much is being held by the trade.

“Farmers that are holding beans would mainly be doing so for their own reserves…retaining as “insurance”  even if this mean marketing a little lower after there is rain.

Mr Mallon said feedmills were also in the market for faba beans, field peas and lupins when cost competitive against other  protein options such as meals.

With uncertainty about the feed and cropping season foremost in people’s minds, Mr Mallon said no new-crop bids or offers for 2018 beans were available.


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