Chuck Penner said the “ultimate question” for the outlook for dry bean prices in Canada is what will the 2020-21 crop be?
Statistics Canada estimates that it will be just over 100,000 tonnes, which would translate into abundant supplies for the current crop year.
Production is down this year, but this level of carry-over would create a total supply of 489,000 tonnes of beans, which would be well above the typical harvest of around 400,000 tonnes.
“I am not entirely convinced of these supply figures, largely because of the behavior of prices lately,” Penner told delegates attending the 2021 Virtual Convention on Pulses and Special Crops.
The posted bids for Navy and Pinto beans in Canada were around 49 cents a pound when Penner made his presentation on September 8 and they appeared to be climbing higher. The actual bids were probably much more than that.
In the United States, where there is much better pricing information, the offers were around 45 US cents per pound for pinto
and black beans and 40 cents for the marines. All three guys seemed to be heading for the 2011 highs of around 50 cents.
Keven Sawchuk, senior pulse merchant at Viterra, agrees with Penner’s market assessment.
âMaybe the supplies are not as plentiful as some statistics might suggest,â he said.
Statistics Canada forecasts 325,000 tonnes of Canadian production in 2021, down 33% from the record set last year.
In the United States, acres of black beans are down 20% from last year, pintos are down 19%, and Marines are down 12%.
Harvest ratings are well below average with less than 30 percent of the US harvest rated as good to excellent.
The US Department of Agriculture forecasts an average yield of just under 1,700 pounds per acre, the worst since 2006.
âI wonder if the yield numbers are still overstated, especially in the western states,â Penner said.
Mexico appears poised to harvest a summer harvest of 750,000 tonnes, which would be slightly below the average of 800,000 tonnes.
Argentina could harvest a record harvest of 750,000 tonnes, which would help meet Latin American demand.
But Sawchuk said there are significant challenges at other key global suppliers like Ethiopia, Myanmar and China.
China was a major exporter of beans five years ago. Nowadays, it has become an importer of black beans and white beans.
“This has a major impact on world markets,” he said.
Sawchuk estimates that global bean supplies will be extremely tight at the end of 2021-2022, with perhaps a paltry 2% global stocks-to-use ratio.
He still predicts that North American supplies will last much of the new crop year despite the short harvest, in part because high freight rates and the global container crisis will keep exports in check.
Cindy Brown, president of Chippewa Valley Bean, said buyers are facing higher-than-usual bean prices, sky-high freight rates, rising costs of steel for canneries and l ‘increased labor costs.
This can put a damper on demand.
But Penner said there doesn’t appear to be any rationing of demand at today’s prices. On the contrary, he notes a reluctance to sell on the part of the producers.
The development of the market will largely depend on the accuracy of Statistics Canada’s forecast of approximately 100,000 tonnes of carry-over.
If so, the increase will be reduced. If it turns out to be too optimistic, the previous 2011 price peaks could be close at hand.
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