Pulse weekly outlook: Early snow hurts edible bean prospects

MarketsFarm — An early snow storm hit key edible bean growing regions of Manitoba and the northern U.S. hard, with a large portion of the crop in the region now facing an uncertain future.

“It is unprecedented what’s happened at this point,” said Tim Courneya, executive vice-president of the Northarvest Bean Growers Association, which represents the edible bean industry in North Dakota and Minnesota.

After a storm brought a foot or more of heavy snow to many areas over the past week, the extent of the damage won’t be known until producers can get back on their fields.

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Excessive moisture was already a problem before the snow, according to Courneya. He had spoken with one grower who described the beans still in the field before the snow hit as “looking like they were ready for the pot,” in reference to the practice of pre-soaking edible beans before cooking.

“We know it won’t be good quality, but how bad it’s going to be will depend on how it dries up over the next little while,” said Dennis Lange, pulse specialist with Manitoba Agriculture.

Cassandra Tkachuk, production specialist with Manitoba Pulse and Soybean Growers, said any beans lying in windrows before the snow will be hardest hit, with a better outlook for those crops still standing.

While disease issues and quality losses are likely, “we’re still hopeful that farmers will be able to get back out there and harvest what’s remaining,” Tkachuk said, adding that the biggest challenge would be getting back on the fields.

North Dakota and Minnesota account for 40 per cent of the U.S. edible bean crop, according to Courneya, while Manitoba accounts for a similar percentage of Canada’s production.

As a result, Courneya expected the adverse harvest would have a serious impact on the North American bean market.

While rising spot prices for any good-quality beans are likely, he noted lost customers are another possibility as marketers won’t want to make forward sales to export customers given the production uncertainty. Those customers will look elsewhere to fill their needs, and many take some time to come back.

Manitoba’s edible bean crop was only 60 per cent harvested as of Monday, well down from the 92 per cent average for the middle of October, according to the latest provincial crop report from Manitoba Agriculture. The soybean crop was 30 per cent harvested, down from the 77 per cent average.

In North Dakota, 53 per cent of edible beans were harvested as of Sunday, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, down from the average of 90 per cent. Soybeans in the state were 16 per cent harvested, well below the 67 per cent average.

— Phil Franz-Warkentin reports for MarketsFarm, a Glacier FarmMedia division specializing in grain and commodity market analysis and reporting.

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