- Estimated Australian crop size this year: 500,000 mt
- Average of recent years: 300,000 mt
- Crop cycle: plant in autumn, harvest in summer
- Main market: Egypt
- Export shipments: Mostly bulk in container, and some bulk cargo and amounts of containerised split.
AUSTRALIA is set to grow more faba beans this year than either of the previous two seasons, with forecasts pointing to a possible 500,000 mt harvest come Christmas.
That compares to crops of around 300,000 tonnes in recent years.
Too much rain a threat
Yields everywhere have been boosted by timely late-winter rainfall.
However risk of yield and quality loss is also present following the rain.
Liverpool Plains agronomist Hugh Urquhart has been inspecting crops all week.
“Chocolate spot has already caused damage,” he said. this morning.
“Growers who were vigilant and started a fungicide program at least a month ago have successfully managed the disease.
“For those who either had limited access to fungicide, or who commenced after row closure, will lose more yield.
“Some crops here have gone brown this past week.”
Market stationary or drifting lower
Faba beans are currently priced at around $300/mt.
“The market presently is a little soft,” Adelaide broker Tim Teague said.
“It has come off big numbers and appears to be returning more towards a long-term average.”
Trade activity at present is slow in Australian faba beans as the current crop navigates pod-fill and weather damage.
Volume of trade will increase gradually through the Australian harvest period between October and January.
Bigger crop in northern hemisphere
Internationally, producers have responded to higher prices last year by planting more pulses.
Price and profitability have driven faba bean production and exports for the first time from European countries including Lithuania.
Mr Teague said the British pound collapse in the wake of the Brexit vote had given suppliers in the UK an export price advantage.
Extra supply into an already softening market is likely to make export competition for Australia’s faba beans tougher.
The demand side of the equation, where Egypt is traditionally the main buyer of Australia’s faba beans, also warrants careful risk management owing to political uncertainty in Egypt and the challenge of funding Letters of Credit.
Gross margin and soil-health benefits
Around half Australia’s faba beans are grown in Victoria and southern NSW, followed by South Australia, and northern NSW, where Narrabri is the epicentre of production in the Namoi Valley region. Western Australia’s Albany and Esperance zones this year have lifted faba bean plantings from a low base.
The crop is popular for its role in whole-farm planning, bringing both gross margin and soil health benefits as a nitrogen-fixing plant.
Chris Heinjus, director with South Australian-based Rural Directions, said successful mixed farmers grow beans in fenced paddocks.
The stubble provides beneficial grazing for lambs which adds further to the gross income of the operation, and sheep effectively clean up dropped pods.
“Yields of faba beans in excess of three tonnes per hectare give added benefit through nodulation and give heart to the country.”