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Beans are produced for two main markets: export human consumption and animal feed.

Total UK bean production ranges from 550,000 to 650,000t per year. Typically, up to 30% of this is exported for human consumption and the remainder is sold locally for compound animal feed. The quality of the produce determines which market the beans are best suited to. The specification for human consumption and feed beans is similar, with a maximum of 2% admixture and 14-16% moisture, depending on the buyer. Bruchid beetle damage or infestation will also affect values.



Human Consumption

The higher value market for winter beans is for human consumption, where they are a traditional staple. North African and Middle Eastern countries have historically been strong importers of beans. These countries include Egypt, Lebanon, Israel, Qatar Yemen and Saudi Arabia .


They are a major part of the diet and particularly popular at breakfast, the beans are boiled up and eaten with bread or with garlic, chillies or other seasoning.


Global demand is fairly stable year on year, and has recently been supplied

– as well as by the UK – by growers in France, China and Australia.

The UK supplies up to 150,000T.


In terms of quality specification, shippers look for sound, hard beans with a

good, pale colour and skin finish. Colour and skin finish can be fairly

subjective and so samples are commonly sent in advance for buyer approval,

as none would want to run the risk of a rejection of a large shipment on arrival

overseas. Skin quality (particularly skin thickness) is affected by variety, and

thus variety is generally specified. It also varies very much year by year in the

UK, according to weather conditions at harvest. This is because wet weather

at this time tends to make the pods go leathery: as they wet and dry their black

colour transfers to the bean. The general colour of the bulk is of more significance than

occasional black individual beans, as the latter can always be removed photo electrically.


The other big effect that weather can have on quality, more usually seen in other countries (such as France in 2003), is drought on bean size. Severe drought will result in an unacceptable percentage of a bulk sample passing through the 9mm screen.


Maximum 2% admix (which is usually in the form of pieces of pod and stem) is usually specified. 14% moisture content is the normal basis of trade, although moistures of up to 16% can be accepted. Toleration of the Bruchid Beetle however, which affects both the visual quality and taste of beans by drilling a hole through the skin and laying larvae, is close to zero for any bulk of beans destined for human consumption.


Winter bean varieties Wizard and Honey have proven suitability for this market and expectations for Bumble and Vespa are similar. Beans of superior visua appearance command a price premium in this market.



Beans for Animal Feed


Winter beans are a useful ration constituent of compound feeds, both domestically and overseas (particularly the Mediterranean area). The crop competes with products such as soya and rape meal for inclusion, principally on the basis of price. However, likely continuity of supply can also be a factor in the minds of buyers, as a forced switch of ration constituents in mid season is not without cost and can also upset customers.


Annual demand for feed beans in the UK varies from 270,000 to 350,000t.

Beans are typically compounded in ruminant feed as a protein source.

The use of beans in feed for non-ruminants (in place of imported soya) is

increasing due to the suitability of modern varieties, where they are used

in a mixture with oilseed rape or cereals.  On-farm feeding is believed to

account for around 80,000t. Feed compounding for ruminants, which is

also very price competitive, takes approximately 110,000t of beans each

year and is seen as a growth area.


The absence of mould is important because it can easily introduce

unwelcome mycotoxins into a feed ration. This is generally avoided by prompt

drying after harvest and is most usually seen when growers are tempted (since beans rarely heat in a bulk even when wet) to delay drying for a few weeks. Mould is detected visually, and disposal of bulks in which the problem has been identified can be difficult.

Feed protein

The use of beans for protein in compound feeds for ruminants and non-ruminants is driven by the price/protein ratio relative to soya meal and wheat. Protein content can vary significantly between bean varieties, however the feed compounding industry uses a typical protein estimate of 28% for beans (compared with 45% for soya bean meal and 10% for wheat).


UK bean varieties can be guaranteed free of GM, whereas imported soya cannot. This gives UK beans an advantage when non-GM usage is a consideration.


Fish farming, particularly salmon and trout, has been a growing market in recent years. Beans are used in fish rations to bind the oils and meal required for optimal growth. The process usually involves de-hulling and



In addition to supplying the thriving salmon farming industry based in

Scotland, a considerable tonnage of UK beans is exported to Scandinavia.

Major consumers in Norway and Denmark are responsible for most of

this demand.

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