Whopper bean harvest but prices doing growers no fabas

Whopper faba bean harvest but prices crash

Cropping News
This year's faba bean crop has been excellent for many growers in the Wimmera and south-eastern South Australia. Photo: Gregor Heard.

This year's faba bean crop has been excellent for many growers in the Wimmera and south-eastern South Australia. Photo: Gregor Heard.

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It's been a picture perfect year for faba bean production, but prices have fallen heavily year on year.

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NEAR perfect conditions in Australia's faba bean heartland in western Victoria and south-eastern South Australia have meant the nation is set to grow a monster crop this season.

Average faba bean production in Australia is around 370,000 tonnes, but current ABARES estimates are for 516,000t this year and some private forecasters are even higher.

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However, the downside for growers is that prices have collapsed.

After commanding values of $650 - 700 a tonne last harvest, in a year where production was also relatively strong, international factors have meant the price has collapsed to around $280/t delivered Wimmera this week.

The fall brings prices back in line with historical averages, with $300/t port considered a benchmark.

Central to the fall has been a better year in key northern European producers.

Last year buyers such as Egypt, the world's major consumer of faba beans, were forced to buy from Australia due to a poor season particularly in England and France, big growers of the legume.

This year there has been a better season not only in western Europe but in the Baltic States, which also grow big volumes of faba beans.

It has meant that current prices have come back in line with stock feed values.

Faba beans are prized as stock feed when they are affordable due to their nutritional profile, meaning domestic markets may open up, but farmers are currently assessing their options.

Ben Crouch, Kaniva, in the west Wimmera, said the strong yields meant some farmers were comfortable selling even though the price was well below last year.

"It really has been a great year for beans, most people in the area are averaging 3.5 tonnes a hectare and there's plenty of paddocks doing above 4t/ha," Mr Crouch said.

"Plenty of years you'd be happy to see your cereals do that so some have taken the decision to sell them straight away."

He said other farmers were looking to store the beans on-farm in the hope of a price rise.

"We have seen fabas jump up pretty quickly in price in the past so that will be the reasoning behind storing them."

Mr Crouch said finding space for the beans was becoming problematic.

"As a smaller scale crop you don't have the sites taking them you do with the cereals and the yields have been so good that what space there is around is filling up quickly."

"It's a good problem to have but it is going to be a bit of a problem for those later getting going in their beans."

Further south at Frances, far eastern South Australia, Wayne Hawkins said it had been an excellent year for the pulse crop.

"There would probably be nearly a 4t/ha average locally, everything seems to be going really well, a paddock went 6.5t/ha which is probably the highest I can recall," Mr Hawkins said.

However, he said on the south side of Naracoorte crops that looked similarly good had not done as well.

"It is a bit like beans, they can be fickle, the crops around Bool Lagoon looked just as good as those around Frances for most of the season but just haven't yielded quite as well."

He said farmers were working out plans to market the crop.

"Some people forward contracted a bit earlier but with so many beans around it is not going to be quick or easy to sell them for a good price like last year."

The story Whopper bean harvest but prices doing growers no fabas first appeared on Farm Online.

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