Early snow hurts North American edible bean prospects

Winnipeg (MarketsFarm) – An early snow storm hit key edible bean growing regions of Manitoba and the northern United States 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.

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,” added Dennis Lange, pulse specialist with Manitoba Agriculture.

Cassandra Tkachuk, production specialist with Manitoba Pulse and Soybean Growers, said any beans that were 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,” said Tkachuk. She said the biggest challenge would be getting back on the fields.

North Dakota and Minnesota account for 40 percent 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 is likely, he noted that 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 harvest was only 60 per cent harvested as of Oct. 14, which compares with 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, which compares with the 77 per cent average.

In North Dakota, 53 percent of edible beans harvested as of Oct. 13, according to the United States Department of Agriculture. That compares with the 90 percent average. Soybeans in the state were 16 pe cent harvested, which was well below the 67 percent average.

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