STEADY summer rainfall has helped the state’s bumper mung bean crop, and growers are looking forward to good returns despite a drop in the price since January.
Mung beans were trading at $1400 a tonne delivered to Narrabri in late December and early January, prompting more growers to plant.
The price has dropped back to $1200/t this week, caused by a planting rush and a change to the way mung beans are traded, according to AgVantage Commodities trader Steve Dalton.
“Historically, it’s still a good price, but there’s fairly big seed sale in Australia, where we’ve basically sold out of certified mung beans in Central Queensland, the Darling Downs and the NSW border region,” Mr Dalton said.
“Mung beans are traditionally sold on hectare contracts, but some buyers have withdrawn from that and they’re only willing to buy per tonne.
“They only want to buy fixed tonnage and don’t want to take on the price risk of an area contract.”
Gunnedah agronomist Rob Weinthal said crops in his area had responded well to rain earlier this year, with most crops receiving from 60mm to 90mm over a few rainfall events.
He said some growers took advantage of the rain to plant more mung beans in January after rain in December, but more rain was needed during flowering.
“The crops are coming along into early flowering at the moment, and generally setting up quite well, but they’ll be in need of follow up rain within the next few weeks,” Mr Weinthal said.
“The majority of mung beans were double-cropped into last year’s winter cereal stubble, so they’re on a limited moisture level at the moment but there’s potential for an average yield of one to 1.5t/ha.
“At the current price, even if we only get half a tonne to the hectare, they’re still making money for the grower.”
Pulse Australia national manager Gordon Cumming said 100,000 hectares of mung beans were being grown nationally, with northern NSW making up about 30,000ha to 40,000ha.
The area planted to mung beans has increased by 25 per cent on last year, driven by the high prices and good summer rainfall.
“We’ve had a good summer for summer cropping and mung beans are the perfect opportunity crop,” Mr Cumming said.
“Growers can get the crop in and out, and maybe then have a winter crop again.”
Mr Cumming said mung beans were growing in popularity due to the shorter growing period of 90 to 110 days.
“Over the last five to 10 years our core group of growers that grow mung beans year in, year out, is definitely growing, the area they plant is increasing, their skill level is improving and we’ve got better varieties of mung beans coming through, so overall, they’re becoming less risky for growers and growers are becoming more confident with mung beans.”
Mung beans were the perfect summer option for Mullaley grower Ross Durham, “Nombi”.
He planted 450ha in late November on a full moisture profile, rushing to get the crop in between harvesting his faba beans and wheat.
“I had thought about putting sorghum in but I made the decision to switch to mung beans based on the price,” Mr Durham said.
“Sorghum was looking like it was starting to soften a bit and mung beans gives us a couple of options going into a winter crop.
”I had to go pretty hard with planting because the moisture was starting to get away.
The mung beans suffered a couple of minor stress events, with heat stress in December and the loss of late flowers and pods during rain in January.
The crop will be sprayed out this week and harvested in another two weeks.
“It’s not going to be a boom year but I’m expecting an average to slightly above average yield, between one and 1.5t/ha,” Mr Durham said.
Mr Durham hasn’t forward sold any of the crop.
“Normally I like to get them in the silos and send samples away to a couple of different traders, because that way you’re getting a fair evaluation on what you’ve got.
“Mine will be one of the first crops harvested in the region so there could be a little bit of interest in it.”
Mung beans have been in the crop rotation at “Nombi” since the late 2000s.
“Next year we have about 480ha available for summer cropping but we’re yet to determine what crop we’ll put there,” Mr Durham said.
“The good thing about mung beans is they don’t take as much moisture as other summer crop options so you can build your profile up a bit quicker.
“We’ll harvest in March, then we’ve got three to four months to build that profile up and put a winter crop in and if there’s not enough moisture, it’ll be left for sorghum.”
Mr Durham said the only downside to mung beans was harvesting.
“We have to harvest the beans quite low but this year’s crop is standing slightly higher than last year.
“The season has been a bit better because we’ve had a couple of in-crop rainfall events.”