Wayne Hawthorne and Argentinean visitor Andreas Braun. AUSTRALIAN faba bean producers are looking at upcountry prices of $340 a tonne this year, the equivalent of $365-70/t port, with the marked improvement helping boost estimated production this year.
The $365/t port compares to prices in recent years of below $250/t, with Pulse Australia’s industry officer Wayne Hawthorne saying it was a key factor in a projected 38pc spike in production.
“Generally, faba beans are popular as a rotational crop, but people are realising they can get reasonable yields and with these sort of prices they can generate some good returns as well and that has led to increased plantings.”
Mr Hawthorne said this year Australia was likely to produce 370,000 tonnes of faba beans this year, up 38pc on last year’s crop.
He said production was roughly split into three key zones, northern NSW, the west Wimmera in Victoria and the lower mid-north and south-east of South Australia.
“Traditionally, South Australia is the largest producer of beans, but this year, Victoria is also closing in.”
He said this year there were plantings of 61,000ha in South Australia, 60,000ha in Victoria, 4000ha in the Riverina, 3500ha in Western Australia and 50,000ha in northern NSW.
The harvest in northern NSW, where plantings are markedly up on recent years, is due to kick off, with local agronomists expecting production of around 125,000 tonnes.
Northern NSW-based Special One Grain director and agronomist, Greg Rummery said despite a tough finish in the later half of the season there will be a number of crops yielding above 2.5t/ha.
Traditionally, yields above 2.4t/ha have been considered good for faba beans.
Mr Rummery said the tight finish may catch up with the northern NSW crop in terms of bean size, but said generally crops looked good.
Further south, Mr Hawthorne said SA and Victorian crops still looked fresh into the pod fill period, but said there was little moisture underneath them.
“Everything looks really good, but there’s no doubt another rain would really finish things off.
The market for faba beans has been positive because of strong human consumption demand for the legumes into the Middle East, principally Egypt.
Special One chief executive Rebecca Reardon said it was a positive for growers with good quality beans.
“Faba Number one quality price has increased by 15 per cent from $300 to $345-$350 a tonne delivered to the upcountry NSW packers in the last month, while number two quality is $15-20 a tonne lower.
“Egypt has been chasing beans and has been forced to pay more to compete with the protein feed market which has increased its bean usage.”
Mr Hawthorne added Egypt was also struggling to attract sufficient tonnage from traditional exporters such as France and the UK.
Ms Reardon said prices were at historically high levels, and said farmers should take a serious look at prices on offer.
“Some are questioning if these pricing levels can be sustained.”
Mr Hawthorne said the initial focus would be on the northern crop when harvest began, but then buyers tended to hone in on the southern crop, as varieties such as Fiesta and Farah, popular in Victoria and SA, tended to have larger seed and be lighter, traits Middle Eastern markets prefer.
Ms Reardon said Special One Grain would offer both pools and cash prices for delivery of Faba Beans at a range of northern NSW and Queensland sites.
In the south, a number of packers are competing actively for tonnage.
Mr Hawthorne said he had received feedback the ability to dry sow faba beans and their prodigious nitrogen fixing properties, the best out of all the major pulse crops, had them in favour at the moment.
“The price was good last year and looks good leading into this harvest, and that means farmers are more than happy to plant them, as they stack up well both agronomically and in terms of sowing management.”
He said there would be a cap in terms of national acreage.
“They are not a drought tolerant crop and won’t be able to spread into true low rainfall zone areas, although there could be more acres in some high rainfall areas, particular in Victoria’s Western District.”
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