March 29, 2006
Theres no question that with a drought-affected domestically produced dry bean crop in 2005, Mexico will be importing beans from the U.S. Its just a matter of how much, when, and where from, says Bill Thoreson, sales manager for North Central Commodities, Johnstown, N.D.
Thoreson was part of a four person group (which also included Judd Keller, Tom Gilley, and Cliff Rogenbuck) that scouted the Mexican dry bean harvest outlook last fall. It was Thoresons fifth such market intelligence mission. I think its very important for we as an industry to make a determination about what their crop is going to be, he says, of this key south-of-the-border market.
In the past, the industry delegation split into two groups that each visited different production areas. Last fall, the tour stuck to just one group, which Thoreson believes is better. That way you have the same eyes looking at the same crop making the same determination, he says.
The group evaluated dry bean fields in the states of Zacatecas, Durango, and Chihuahua. Drought was apparent in most areas they visited. Everywhere we went, we saw a crop with a potential first set, but absolutely no second or third set. Thoreson says the Mexican dry bean crop may be about half of what it was in 2004.
They will need beans to meet a shortfall in supply. If you figure that demand in Mexico is about 800,000 to 1 million metric tons, and 20% of that market is pintos, they are in excess of 1 to 1.5 million bags short of what their needs are, he says, but adds that this doesnt necessarily set up an overly bullish situation for U.S. dry bean demand. The U.S. produced about 13 million bags of pintos last year, with demand of about 11 million bags we need Mexico.
In some cases, dry bean harvesting in Mexico involves beans dumped on a tarp laid out on the grounds, and baggin by hand. Still, dry bean technology is improving in Mexico - the government is investing in three dry bean processing plants and harvesting equipment to improve the quality of beans that reach the consumer.
Drought was common in many dry bean fields in Mexico last year, resulting in a supply of shortfall.