Volatility Returns

Weather disrupts 2019 dry edible bean crop

Unprecedented. Disastrous. Stressful.

These are just some of the words that have been used to describe the 2019-2020 dry edible bean harvest. Just a couple of months ago everything was fine and dry bean prices had been steady although depressed. Then mother nature stepped in and delivered a relentless barrage of snow, continuous rains, warm temperatures, hail, and a deep freeze across the biggest dry edible bean producing states from North Dakota to Minnesota and Nebraska.

For several weeks, between late September thru November many dry bean dealers were “off the board” while the market evaluated the extent of the crop damage from bad weather. As the news began to spread dry bean participants began to realize things had gone from bad to worst to disastrous very quickly. Concerns about supply and demand started weighing on the market as prices reacted with a bump up, then a jump, and finally spiking. Pinto beans were the variety which had the most volatile reaction in terms of pricing. Wet weather has discolored much of the pinto harvest this year. For much of the 2018-2019 crop year, slow dark pintos did not receive a premium in the market versus conventional pinto and for that reason many growers decided not to plant the slow dark variety this year which turned out to be a bad move for those who didn’t.

This year light colored pinto beans will receive a premium in the marketplace. The question is though, how much will end users be willing to pay? It has been a long time since the market has seen pinto bean prices this high and consumers have been used to lower prices for quite sometime now. Will consumption slow? Where’s Mexico? Can we expect prices to go higher from here? The answer is probably, waiting, and they could. This is scary stuff people, if you need a minute to change into a clean set of your Duluth Trading underwear go for it.

Even the USDA is having a hard time finding out where prices stand as many dealers are reluctant to provide firm numbers. Last time I checked, not available (NA) seemed to be the most consistent offer by dealers, and those who are offering beans have adjusted pricing much higher.

What happens from here, no one really knows. The only thing for certain is volatility has returned to the dry edible bean market and participants will need to adjust.