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


Late October 2017


“The UK pea harvest was completed some time ago and the variability of both quality and yield from location to location is well documented,” comments Roger Vickers, Chief Executive of PGRO. “While, in general, the 2017 bean harvest will be remembered as good yields but disappointing quality after being delayed by late summer rain."

“The trade is estimating that the availability of human consumption quality beans will be about half that of last year at something under 100,000 tonnes. Estimated feed bean supply is around 500,000 - 600,000 tonnes. As reported earlier in these bulletins, the southern crop was heavily affected by Bruchid beetle and the northern crops have suffered staining issues from repeated wetting and drying prior to harvest.

“Looking ahead, the medium to longer-term agronomic and economic benefits of growing pulses remain strong, even though the exact pulse area in the UK is uncertain for now following changes to EFA rules. All that is removed is the short-term benefit of being able to claim EFA aid on a conventionally grown crop – pesticide applications being prohibited on EFA crop areas. It is hoped that this will not have a negative impact on 2018 crop area.

(More has been written about this on the BEPA web site:

“Harvest in the Baltic States is reported to have been significantly better than the UK in terms of insect damage, but there is reason to believe that they may also be suffering from some colour deterioration issues.

“Australian crops were enormous last year with a record yield of around 600,000 tonnes, resulting in stocks which depressed prices generally. Prices in Australia fell dramatically with a saturated feed market and any human consumption premium eroded to nothing. This followed a wetter than normal growing period with plenty of moisture and an increased crop area. With disappointing prices reaching growers, production has been switched to other pulses, including chickpeas, with a resultant decrease in anticipated beans from Australian crop 2017/18. Crops are forecast to be less than half that of last year.

“French exports of beans were static in the 2016/17 seasons at around 92,000t. They have almost completely lost their place in the Egyptian market, but have increased shipments for Norwegian fish feed to almost 56,000t. Whilst the French bean crop area in 2017 fell to just 72,700 ha, pea area has increased from 164,000ha in 2015 to almost 208,000ha in 2017.

“It is reported that Canadian pea production is down 20% this year, with a slight reduction in area but a sharp drop in yield. Green peas are once again carrying a premium to yellow peas, reversing the unusual trend of last year.

“In the USA the forecast for pea production area 2017-18 is 17% lower with a projected 45% drop in production.”

Franek Smith, President of BEPA, reports that Feed Bean exports continue to materialise to Europe destinations but with a larger stock than last year. If this is to compensate for the anticipated decline in human consumption sales of 100,000t, a further 40,000t will need to be shipped by the turn of the year.

Domestic feed consumption is down year on year injecting pressure into the market. This is driven by mild weather providing extended grass growth, the availability of cheap alternatives such as distillers grains and a narrower price spread between beans and soya.

Values have begun to slide a little through the month and, although apparently stabilised, the immediate outlook is viewed with a little pessimism. Current bean values are running at around £145-149/t ex farm, very similar to this time last year. A general view, if seeing a profit, might be to sell early rather than hold hoping the prices will improve. Without further feed bean export interest and lack of new compound feed buying, values may drift lower - but Sterling weakness or a reduction in mid range protein values would soon reverse this.

With decreased availability of Human Consumption Beans and also doubt about Baltic availability, the omens would normally be good for this trade. However, the buyers were slow coming to the market and this initially put pressure on the prices as available trades were touted around.

Premiums have now risen on the back of containerised trade to the Sudan (at circa £180-185/t ex) but this is a small market and will soon close. The Egyptian market is currently lower at around £165- £168/t ex and is being fed by Baltic supplies. Exports to Egypt are not helped by a fluctuating currency and recent risk experience in the UK trade.

Growers with good quality samples might make a wise decision selling early, accepting the high prices currently offered. The risk of accelerated deterioration in store is greater than normal if beans were dried significantly post harvest.

Growers of Combining Peas may have had variable results with crops and potentially disappointing results with pea prices in the last two years, however, the future is starting to look brighter. The significantly lower area and reduced quality of this year’s crop is likely to drive out much of the surplus from 2016 and remove much of the pressure that has pushed prices down. It may well be that for peas we have seen the bottom of the cycle and that a turning point has been reached, which would be a welcome development for committed pea producers.

Little has changed for Marrowfat Peas during the month - issues with excess bleaching and contamination remain a serious problem demoting many samples to feed quality. Values remain pretty much the same from top quality at around £230/t ex for export through to £170/t for canning quality and down to £145/t for feed grade peas. Most merchants have yet to release contract opportunities for 2018, but when they do, the feeling is that they may be around £250/t ex minimum.

Prices for the top end Large Blue Peas (great colour, soaking and cooking qualities) have risen to circa £220 ex as micronisers and exporters chase down the very best quality. The spread for the lesser quality falls to £175ex for more medium bleached samples, with the poorest samples barely reaching £145/t ex for feed.

Some domestic trade in Yellow Peas has taken place at around £170/t ex for March shipment, but generally crops have been grown to contract and the market is a quiet one. In recent times Yellow peas have had resurgent prices internationally, driven by shortfalls in world markets and substitution for chickpea shortages in India and elsewhere. These corrections can be swift and prices have come back from their highs of a few months ago but remain good.


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.