British Edible Pulses Association (BEPA)

BEPA is the trade association representing the processors and users of British-produced pulse (mainly combining peas and field beans) crops. BEPA’s key objectives are to liaise with UK government and other national and international associations, & encourage the consumption of home-produced pulses by promoting their value as healthy, high-protein and high-fibre foods, and to liaise with crop scientists and plant breeders.

Franek Smith, President with Lewis Cottey, Vice PresidentOur website brings you the history of BEPA, contact information for all our members, BEPA in the press and media, the latest pulse market prices, and an introduction to the many end uses for UK-produced pulses.

We also give details of the main BEPA contacts - if you would like to know more about BEPA, and the important role pulses play in the UK's agricultural and food sectors, please ask us!

Franek Smith, President with Lewis Cottey, Vice-President.

British Edible Pulses Association (BEPA)
Future BEPA & PGRO Events and selected UK/EU eventsFuture BEPA & PGRO Events
and selected UK/EU events

LATEST NEWS FROM BEPA

THE DEMAND FOR BEANS IN THE UK DOMESTIC MARKET HAS BEEN EXCELLENT OVER RECENT MONTHS

“For the last 2 months the UK market has been relatively uneventful with very little to report,” comments Roger Vickers, Chief Executive of PGRO. “Their have been few if any farm sellers of any remaining 2016 crop beans and, as a result, some imports were necessary to fulfil short sale obligations in the trade. The demand for beans in the UK domestic market has been excellent over recent months and has apparently taken up any increase in availability produced.

“UK peas are starting to harvest in the south of the country. Typically, after a very dry cool spring, the weather at the point of harvest has turned catchy. It remains to be seen how this will affect quality. Particularly that of blue and marrowfat peas — the harvest timing of which is so critical to the retention of visual quality.”

Franek Smith, President of BEPA, reports Canadian pea exporters are forecasting a rise in sales to India and Bangladesh but are also anticipating a fall in prices — though their yellow peas may still have a small premium over greens and a small reduction in yellow pea production in 2017/18.

Pea production the USA is also predicted to fall significantly, although they continue to develop their export markets.

The Egyptian economy has experienced turmoil for many months and this resulted in significant reductions in UK exports last autumn. The currency was revalued in October, devaluing from around 10 EGP/GBP to almost 25 EGP/GBP in a couple of weeks, whilst it has stabilised a little still fluctuates over 23 EGP/GBP. The economy is reported on the mend (http://www.focus-economics.com/countries/egypt), and restrictions on foreign exchange transfers have been lifted, international reserves being substantially higher than a year ago. This should make it easier for firms to import. However, inflation is eroding purchasing power and unemployment is high. Egypt remains a tough place to do business – and not without significant risk.

There will be demand for exports of Human Consumption Beans as soon as the new crop comes available. Especially into the smaller Sudanese market where there is reportedly little or no carry over of stocks. That said, with feed bean values having exceeded £185/t in recent weeks following the lack of availability in the UK, the expectations of the sellers and buyers vis-a-vis the same time last year might take some resolving - especially as a premium will be sought for top quality samples.

With little trade in Feed Beans at present, the new crop not yet in, and little immediate requirement for the feed market - it appears to be a game of wait and see. Market prices have slipped a little from the highs driven by the lack of availability of recent weeks peaking around £189/t ex. As a reminder, September feed bean prices in 2016 were significantly lower at around £142/t. It remains to be seen how competitive feed beans will need to be to compete with other protein sources post-harvest. Buyers in the feed market will be keen to secure availability throughout the season - but also anxious to ensure they keep a competitive edge - so it is likely prices will come under pressure. If trading takes place at a £20 premium to September wheat, values may reach £170/t ex farm.

The predicted large carry over of Marrowfat Peas did materialise and this hangs over the market. It remains to be seen what impact the falling prices had upon plantings 2017 and the best indication will come as the new crop comes to the market. Although a 40% reduction in crop area was anticipated by the trade, it may take a further 12 months for the supply and demand to become more in balance. The first few crops in south of the country have already been harvested and the early indications are of good quality and yields. Off contract crops of the very best quality may fetch £225/t ex if required over and above merchants existing commitments.

The quality of Large Blue Peas is predominantly about the retention of good colour and visual appearance. The three market sectors for blue peas in order of decreasing value are export and grocery quality, micronising, and decortication/feed. Top quality blue peas are currently commanding circa £205/t ex, with the lower end of the market at circa £170/t ex. Early indications are that yields are significantly better than 2016 with limited reports all well over 5 tonnes per hectare.

Early harvest yields for Yellow Peas look promising and early trades have taken place at a new market level of £175/t ex farm. Unsurprisingly, as supply picks up prices are down on the peak of £250/t reported at the extreme short position a few weeks ago.

With higher yields and a perceived uptake in crop area, yellow pea availability looks to be improving locally. Growers would be wise to consider operating on a contract.

THE STORY OF MARROWFAT PEAS …

UK-grown Marrowfat peas are considered amongst the best in the world. They are only produced in the UK, Canada and New Zealand … with our maritime climate giving UK growers the edge.

marrowfat cansWidely used in the snacks industry - particularly in Asia - the best quality samples receive a premium price for the export market. As snack peas become more popular in the UK, once processed, many are then finding their way back to our retail shelves and bars in handy snack packs!

Recently a Japanese client asked one of the exporters an apparently simple question, which proved rather tricky to answer: “Did the Marrowfat Pea originate from the UK or were the seeds originally imported from another country to be grown in the UK?

The fact that an export cultivar popular in Japan is called Maro has led some people to assume, mistakenly, that the English name marrowfat is derived from Japanese. In fact the name marrowfat pea for mature dried peas is recorded by the Oxford English Dictionary as early as 1733.

Tracking down the true origin of Marrowfat peas proved more involved - detective work has revealed that the birth of marrowfat peas as we know them dates back to the late 1800s.

During the life of Queen Victoria there were many progressive changes. For example, the Victorians became very interested in plant breeding - including peas. Amateurs were producing new crosses, and from the 1820s ‘marrow’ peas were being referred to. Descriptions of the many types of pea from the 19th century were based not on taxonomy, but on artificial similarities, the basis for many of the names of common heirloom peas still grown today.

From the late 19th century the trail leads to the Netherlands. In 1898, an article for the Royal Horticultural Journal on the history of garden peas in England: He said that “… in the last fifteen years a whole new business had been created in Holland of growing and marketing ‘blue boiling peas’ (soaked peas).’”

These were exported as a dried pea to England and sold in major industrial and mining towns. They were used as a cooked winter vegetable as a good replacement for fresh peas. They were also sold with butter and salt from stalls to workmen in the early morning hours.

It was assumed that the peas grown in Holland were from English bred material, namely from large seeded peas known as meaty horticulture peas. The Dutch name for this pea type was ‘Schokker’, the peas being grown predominantly in the Zeeland region.

In 1901, the Dutch breeder R.J. Mansholt began selecting from the English-bred marrowfat variety Harrisons Glory. This became an integral part of the Dutch breeding programme and by 1905 he had a short straw high-yielding variety, Mansholts Kortstro Schokker.

In the 1920s, the marrowfat variety Mansholts Glory Schokker was introduced with a further selection for straw shortness. This was used in the Koopman breeding programme to produce a very large seeded variety, Jumboka, first listed in 1935. Meanwhile, Zelka, a smaller seeded variety with fusarium wilt resistance and reliable yield characteristics, had been produced.

In 1931, trying to combine the reliability of Zelka with the large seed size of Jumboka, Koopmans produced selections which eventually resulted in the variety Big Ben. In further developments, Big Ben was crossed with Zelka and by the late 1960s the variety Maro was registered and was listed in the UK in 1980, bred by Cebeco Seeds.

Harrisons Glory, Zelka and Big Ben were commercially used by Batchelors Foods Ltd until they were replaced in the late 1960s with Maro for their packet and canning pea businesses.

Today although no longer on the PGRO recommended list, Maro is represented, maintained and remains available as a commercially-produced heirloom variety in the UK by Church of Bures.

Breeding work continues to bring improved varieties to growers and end users alike with three modern varieties now on the PGRO Recommended List, the latest added in 2016. All of these have improved characters of earliness of ripening, shortness of straw and standing ability - while being resistant to the old enemy of pea wilt.

keith costello and roger vickersIn this way, the descendants of the peas enjoyed in the 18th century are still being enjoyed today - even if they are no longer usually sold with butter and salt from stalls to workmen in the early morning hours. In the 21st century, as well as being on supermarket shelves in cans, and served as mushy peas to accompany traditional British fish & chips, they are just as likely to be consumed as wasabi peas in trendy bars!


Keith Costello (pictured with Roger Vickers of PGRO) worked in the pea industry for over 41 years. He retired in 2015 but remains an active consultant.