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Market outlook for edible beans is strong

Pinto and navy bean prices, at $0.37 per pound, are the highest they ever have been in the spring. Black beans, meanwhile, are fetching $0.39 per pound.

Dry edible bean pods hang on plants.
Edible bean prices are expected to stay strong this spring.
Erin Ehnle Brown / Grand Vale Creative LLC
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Navy, pinto and black bean prices, which are at record or near record levels, are expected to remain strong as edible beans compete with other commodities for acreage this spring, said a market watcher.

“We’re seeing a bid for acres take place,” said Randy Martinson, owner of Martinson Ag Risk Management in Fargo, North Dakota. Martinson was one of several speakers who gave presentations at North Dakota State University Extension's “Getting it Right: Dry Bean” virtual crops production and marketing meeting on March 22, 2022.

Pinto and navy bean prices, which are $0.37 per pound are the highest they ever have been in the spring, Black beans, meanwhile, are fetching $0.39 per pound, Martinson said.

“That should help to encourage a few acres. Every single one of those markets will have to come in and buy acres,” he said.

However, despite the strong prices, competition with other crops may result in a 10-15% decline in total U.S. dry edible bean acres this year, Martinson said

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Crop production across the board was drought-reduced in 2022, so buyers of other commodities will be vying for the edible bean acreage, he said. Meanwhile, continued dry conditions in some dry edible bean areas, such as western North Dakota and Nebraska, also may contribute to the U.S. acreage decline.

North Dakota and Minnesota edible bean acreage also declined in 2021, when the two states’ farmers planted 150,000 and 35,000 fewer, respectively, than they did in 2020.

The decline in acreage combined with drought conditions, reduced 2021 production to 6.4 million hundredweight, which was a 50% decline from 2020, according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service. In Minnesota, 2021 production was 4.6 million hundredweight, down 17% from 2020, the statistics service said.

Ending stocks of pinto beans as of September 2021 were 367,943 hundredweight, and navy beans, 395,401 hundredweight, which are amounts typical of a normal crop year, said Mitch Coulter, Northarvest Bean Growers executive director.

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture expects there only to be a small amount of dark, red key and navy bean carried over, he said.

Most of the carryover of edible beans is the result of transportation logistics, which includes an increase in container costs. Processors have indicated that the cost of a container can reduce the profit on a shipment of edible beans by one-third, Coulter said.

Edible bean buyers may increase prices if it looks like 2022 acreage will be reduced, so farmers should wait until after the release of the U.S. Agriculture Department March 31 planting intentions report, before pricing the bulk of their crop, Martinson advised.

“I’m not excited about pricing a lot ahead,” he said.

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Besides strong prices, dry edible beans may be an attractive alternative for some farmers this spring because they require fewer inputs than commodities such as corn and wheat. For example, only a small amount, if any, nitrogen is needed and the crop requires only minimal phosphorus and potassium, said Dave Franzen, NDSU Extension soils specialist. Meanwhile, sulfur is not necessary unless precipitation amounts in the fall and early spring have been high enough to cause leaching, he said.

Ann is a journalism veteran with nearly 40 years of reporting and editing experiences on a variety of topics including agriculture and business. Story ideas or questions can be sent to Ann by email at: abailey@agweek.com or phone at: 218-779-8093.
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