The bean market for Ontario bean growers is looking up.
Yields in Western Canada were below expectations following a dry summer, a wet September and snow in October.
“That changed our expectations for a bin buster crop into about average,” says Chris Cronin with Hensall Co-op at the 2020 Ontario Bean Growers meeting held Feb. 25 in Stratford.
Why it matters: Dry beans have been an alternative, higher value crop for Ontario growers, so the market is important.
Meanwhile in Ontario, the crops were harvested at a moisture slightly above grower preference.
“I think the impact of that is there (are) implications for quality for our buyers,” says Cronin.
For Ontario bean growers, Europe has always been an important market, mainly for white and dark red kidney beans.
A yearly increase in pulse consumption has been a benefit for Ontario growers.
“It encompasses beans and lentils and chickpeas, but the positive for us is that the dark red kidney beans seem to be seeing more demand in the (European Union) market.”
The EU’s current tariff on United States beans has helped to continuously work through Canadian inventories, following a difficult harvest in 2018.
Canada is now competing with Argentina, Ethiopia and China in the EU. The EU tariff has also opened the door for Ukraine.
There are negotiations going on with the United Kingdom, as it leaves Europe and all of its associated trade deals. Cronin says that the UK is indicating it will go back to most-favoured nation trading rules and that would end the tariffs on American dry beans.
“I think more on this later but American sellers are ramping up their efforts to restore trade. They lost their share in the EU market and are working to get it back.”
Mexico is an important market for Ontario black beans and pinto beans.
Farmers are seeing an increase in black bean acres in Western Canada, which can compete with the United States.
“In terms of a supply response for 2020, pinto bean markets will be starting the year in a relatively low inventory from the start. The dry bean market in North America is going to be a lot of acres.”
This will help to replenish pinto inventories, which can provide support for all bean classes.
In Canada and the U.S., most bean purchases are made by canning and packaging companies.
Cronin is seeing a big increase in individually quick frozen beans, in which beans are cooked and then quickly frozen so they don’t stick together.
“Probably five years ago, you didn’t see a lot of frozen kidney beans in bags, but now there are a lot more now in grocery stores.”
Domestic demand in Canada and the U.S. is stable, with a growing consumption of black beans.
“I would say an increase in production has been more than enough to address that.”
The increase in popularity of plant-based diets has affected dry bean markets.
Cargill has announced two new patties — one with peas and one soy-based. As well, Taco Bell has announced the expansion of their meatless offerings.
“It is good that we are seeing demand for plant-based for everyone here. It’s a lot easier to operate in an environment where demand is trending up. Hopefully, this continues globally and helps all of our marketing efforts.”
The key factors for 2020 depend on the final planted acres and yield for this growing season. If a lot of acres are harvested generating large supplies in North America, farmers could see lower prices after harvest.
However, he said if the acreage doesn’t materialize and inventories aren’t restored due to adverse weather or other reasons, that could change.