What are they for?

Human Consumption

Wherry Winter BeansThe 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 product is often shipped by container in 25kg bags, having passed over a 9mm screen and photo electric eye (in order to remove black beans). Some batches are shipped in bulk for handling and bagging in the country of destination.

Wherry Winter BeansIn 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.

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.

Usual specification is maximum 14% moisture and 2% admix, although some compounders will permit a total of 16% moisture and admix in combination. Protein content is not usually rewarded in the market, although this can vary quite significantly (the three varieties currently listed by NIAB/PGRO ranging between 27.4 and 28.3% protein concentration on a dry basis).

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.

There has been speculation that field beans might benefit in the compound market from the fact that the crop can be guaranteed to be ‘GM free’, unlike its competitor soya.

For further information on marketing beans please contact:

Wherry & Sons Ltd.
The Old School
High Street
United Kingdom
PE10 0SR


Tel: +44 (0)1778 422611
Fax: +44 (0)1778 421792