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Exporting dried beans to Europe

Takes about 23 minutes to read

Europe offers a relatively stable market for dried beans. For developing countries there are opportunities in several types of dried beans, such as mung beans and cow peas, if quality standards and reliable volumes can be provided. Positive drivers for growth include the attention of European consumers for health food and their interest in exotic cuisines and product innovations.


1 . Product description

The products described in this study are from the Vigna and Phaseolus dried bean families.

See the table below for the different products.

Table 1: Dried bean varieties

 

Related beans

Characteristics

Cultivation

Consumption

Mung beans

 

Urad bean

Mung beans are typically green-coloured shelled beans and light yellow inside.

India, China, South East Asia

 

In traditional Asian dishes as whole beans, sprouts, paste or starch and flour as an ingredient

Adzuki bean

 

 

Mostly red coloured, but white, black and grey varieties are also known.

North East Asia (China, Korea, Japan) and Himalayas

As sweetened paste, sprouted, in desserts and soups

Kidney beans

 

Navy bean, pinto bean and black bean (see also our product factsheet about the European market for kidney beans)

Variety of light and dark kidney beans, speckled, white.

Worldwide

Worldwide in various traditional dishes

Bambara beans

 

 

The bambara bean is a groundnut, ripened underground.

 

Western Africa (Mali, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Niger)

Bambara beans are an important grain legume and protein source in semi-arid Africa. They are used in food and beverages, roasted as a snack or in meals.

Cowpeas

 

Black-eyed pea, Yardlong bean

 

 

Nigeria, Niger, Burkina Faso, and several other countries in Africa and elsewhere such as USA (black-eyed pea), Myanmar, Peru

 

In Africa cowpeas are a cash crop and an important part of the local diet. Worldwide, cowpeas are found in curry dishes, cooked with rice, in desserts or as paste.

Other dried beans

 

Other varieties of dried beans of the Vigna and Phaseolus types include:

Lima beans (South America)

Moth beans (Pakistan, India)

Rice beans (China, South East Asia)

Tepary beans (Mexico, USA)

Scarlet runner beans (Central America, Spain)

In the international Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System, dried beans are registered and traded under specific statistical numbers (see table 1).

Table 2: Combined Nomenclature (CN) Code for dried beans

Statistical Number

Product

0713

 

071331

071332

071333

071334

071335

071339

Dried leguminous vegetables, shelled, whether or not skinned or split

- Beans (Vigna spp., Phaseolus spp.)

- - Mung beans; beans of the species Vigna mungo (L.) Hepper or Vigna radiata (L.) Wilczek

- - Small red (adzuki) beans (Phaseolus or Vigna angularis)

- - Kidney beans, including white pea beans (Phaseolus vulgaris)

- - Bambara beans (Vigna subterranea or Voandzeia subterranea)

- - Cow peas (Vigna unguiculata)

- - Other

Source: Eurostat (Comext)

2 . What are the main developments on the European market for dried beans?

Significant contribution of developing countries in the European supply of pulses

The overall import of dried beans is relatively stable. The annual supply of dried beans to Europe is between 450 and 500 thousand tonnes. In recent years the import value from development countries has gone down, but this is mainly due to the decrease of kidney bean imports from China. Developing countries still play a significant role in the supply of dry beans, while Canada and the United States are the main non-developing country suppliers.

The large volume of kidney beans has a major influence in the total development of dried beans. For kidney beans there is a strong influx from Canada and the USA adding to the European production.

Tip:

  • Have a look at the CBI study on exporting kidney beans to Europe for more detailed information about the opportunities for kidney beans on the European market.

Smaller varieties have a chance for relatively strong growth

Mung beans, Cowpeas, Adzuki beans, Lima beans and some of the other dried beans are more exotic, but are still widely available. Mung beans and cowpeas are more typically from developing countries, and European imports of these beans have increased respectively by 44% and 136% from 2013 to 2017.

Smaller bean varieties generally offer better opportunities for exporters from developing countries, because they sometimes offer a relatively interesting growth. However, due to their total volume, these varieties are not yet dominated by large scale producers. As an exporter you must organise your supply chain well to compete, because your buyer expects the same quality and compliance required for the main bean varieties.

Tips:

  • Focus on the well-known varieties of dried beans if you are looking for stability and large volumes, such as kidney beans or mung beans. Developing your market in Europe for small exotic varieties will be more difficult, but can be a good choice when you are not able to compete with the established suppliers from countries such as Canada, the USA and China.
  • Mung beans are often used for sprouting. See the CBI study on exporting mung beans to Europe for more information.
  • Make sure you can offer a consistent quality and volume, which is absolutely necessary if you want to compete with established (bulk) suppliers.

Bambara beans: a potential bean for Europe in the future?

European buyers are always looking for new opportunities and varieties that fit local demand. For example, Bambara beans are hardly found. The market for this product still has to be developed in Europe. Because there is no evidence of import before 1997, they are likely to be considered a novel food. They need approval first to be marketed as a food stuff in the European Union.

According to Bioversity International Bambara beans are viewed as a nutritious underutilized species. This is thanks to having great nutritious value, but having little fame outside of its origin. In local African culture the Bambara bean is an important legume, but not always appreciated as such.

As a commercial crop there are challenges in large-scale production. At the same time this makes it an interesting crop for small producers. As an exporter, if you are willing to do the necessary work, Bambara beans can be an interesting product to promote as a healthy bean on the European market.

Tips:

  • Keep an open mind for new opportunities in the future and maintain a good timing. Be aware that paving the way with an unknown variety such as Bambara beans takes a great effort. The ethnic African market in Europe would be the best starting point.
  • Ask European food safety authorities for permission when you want to export Bambara beans to Europe. The status as a novel food is still unknown.

The United Kingdom is the most diverse market for dried beans

As a supplier you have to determine which export market to target, taking into account local preferences and production.

With a large ethnic population, the United Kingdom is an important and diverse importer of dried beans.

Southern and Eastern Europe are also important markets for many varieties, except for mung beans that are more common in Northwest Europe. Southern Europe (Italy, Spain, Greece) and Eastern Europe (Poland and the Baltic states) also have a relatively large own production of beans and do not depend fully on external markets. Their production mainly consists of varieties of kidney beans, one of the most consumed beans in Europe.

Cowpeas or black-eyed peas are not commonly grown in Europe, except for small quantities in Croatia and surrounding countries.

See the overview below for more information about European markets for specific dried beans.

Table 3: Main import countries of dried beans in Europe, from European and non-European suppliers, 2017, in 1.000 tonnes

Mung beans

Small red (adzuki) beans

Kidney beans

Europe (total)

37,1

Europe (total)

6,0

Europe (total)

449,4

United Kingdom

11,9

United Kingdom

1,6

Italy

114,2

Netherlands

7,1

France

0,9

United Kingdom

104,4

Germany

4,9

Netherlands

0,7

Spain

38,8

Latvia

2,8

Germany

0,6

Portugal

33,0

France

2,4

Belgium

0,4

France

30,1

Italy

1,4

Italy

0,4

Bulgaria

16,4

Bambara beans

Cow peas

Other dried beans

Europe (total)

0,48

Europe (total)

11,5

Europe (total)

39,0

United Kingdom

0,13

Portugal

4,4

Belgium

7,9

Netherlands

0,13

United Kingdom

3,0

United Kingdom

5,2

Italy

0,07

Italy

1,4

France

5,2

Belgium

0,04

Greece

1,0

Spain

3,2

Germany

0,03

Spain

0,8

Italy

2,5

Portugal

0,03

Netherlands

0,2

Germany

2,4

Slovakia

0,02

Ireland

0,1

Netherlands

2,2

Source: ITC Trademap

Tip:

  • Consider the United Kingdom as a start market when you offer several types of dried beans. But always check with potential buyers as well what they consider the best market for your specific product and quality.

Production and consumption of dried beans in Europe remain stable

According to FAOSTAT statistics, the European production of dried beans (Vigna and Phaseolus types) has increased from 163 thousand tonnes in 2013 to 621 thousand tonnes in 2017, mainly due to production efforts in Lithuania, Latvia and Ireland, but it is unlikely that these smaller European countries have been able to grow exponentially in a matter of years.

However, some of the growth can be explained as a result of the new Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) greening measures. The new CAP introduced the green direct payment scheme, which began to be implemented in 2015. In particular, nitrogen-fixing crops, such as dry pulses, are one of the options available for implementing the ecological focus areas.

According to Eurostat, the largest producers of dry pulses are France, the United Kingdom, Poland, Lithuania and Spain. Field peas and broad and field beans are the dominant dry pulses produced in Europe. Other dry pulses mainly include protein crops such as lentils, chick peas and haricots beans, also known as navy beans. The production of fresh pulses is concentrated in France, Spain and Italy.

A large production often also indicates a significant consumption of beans. This means for you as exporter there can be opportunities to supplement the local production or become an alternative supplier. In other countries the consumption can be triggered by cross border influences of traditional cuisines, so it is important you stay up to date with the latest food trends.

Tip:

  • Keep up to date on consumption trends in order to be able to identify new target markets. Online retailers (for example via MySupermarket.co.uk) and European food media (for example Food Navigator or Bakeryandsnacks.com) can be useful sources of such information. Local food trends can influence the growth of consumption in the various European countries.

3 . Which trends offer opportunities in the European market for dried beans?

Year of the pulses promoted consumption

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) introduced the International Year of Pulses in 2016. The goal of the International Year of Pulses was to help develop worldwide consumption of pulses through increased publicity, the promotion of health benefits and product innovation.

The promotion by well-known brands as well as local restaurants or retail chains that offer recipes, gave attention to dried beans that are available on the market. But the initiative was also a good moment for exporters to promote new bean varieties.

However, the actual results of the Year of the Pulses remain unclear.

Tip:

Beans popular as a vegetarian and health food

A growing number of consumers in Europe are aware of the need for a healthy diet. Online media and food specialists promote the benefits of health foods, i.e. foods claimed to have outstanding health characteristics.

Most dried beans are known for their high content of fibers and protein. This makes them ideal for people with diabetes or people that want to reduce their meat consumption. In the health segment your main point of attention as an exporter is supplying a clean and pesticide free product.

Tip:

  • Make sure your product lives up to the expectations of a healthy product. In agricultural production use for example Integrated Pest Management (IPM) and alternative cultivation techniques for your crops.

Organic is a growing niche

Increased attention to health, environmental and social responsibility is leading to rapid growth of the organic sector. Many grains and pulses, including dried beans, are also available as organic products.

Producing and exporting organic beans can be an opportunity because the availability is often not sufficient for the growing demand. Only in the smallest varieties you have to expect that the market will be rather small.

Tip:

Ethnic food on the rise

Ethnic populations as well as local traditional dishes are important drivers for the consumption of many dried bean varieties. Mung beans and adzuki beans are typical for Asian cuisine, and kidney beans and cowpeas are used in dishes worldwide.

With the increasing integration of different nationalities, European consumers are more and more exposed to transnational dishes with dried beans consumed as whole, flour or paste ingredient.

Convenience in cooking

Although consumers in general attach great importance to good food, time has become a precious asset in the modern lifestyle. The effort of pre-soaking and cooking prevents the sales of dried beans to consumers and canned beans are much more accessible.

The food industry also addresses the demand for convenience by using pre-cooked beans in ready-made meals and salads, as well as in new concepts of (microwave friendly) packaging and product mixes with rice or prepared in sauce.

Product innovation provides growth

Product innovation will increase the use of bean paste, flour or starch as an ingredient. Examples of product innovations include beans as snack and pastas and noodles made with mung beans, black beans or adzuki beans. A large quantity of the imported mung beans are also used for sprouting.

According to Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC), in 2015 France and the United Kingdom were the most innovative with new product launches with pulses. To benefit as a bulk supplier of the increasing product innovation, you could explore the possibilities of providing semi-processed products such as bean flour or paste.

Tips:

4 . What requirements should dried beans comply with to be allowed on the European market?

What legal and non-legal requirements must your product comply with?

Food safety

To export dried beans to Europe you have to deal with a strict rules and obligations on food safety. The General Food Law, which regulates food safety in the European Union, also applies to dried beans. As a supplier you must make sure that dried bean exports are traceable and that safety systems (such as HACCP) are in place.

Tips:

Maximum Residue Limits

The maximum residue limits (MRLs) for pesticides that might be used on dried beans can be found in the EU Pesticide Database. Using the term “beans” (code number 0300010) or the type of pesticide as search terms will yield the corresponding MRLs for common bean varieties.

Be aware that the MRL requirements for organic dried beans (and for beans used in baby food) are much more stringent.

Tips:

What additional requirements do buyers often have?

Food safety certification

As food safety is a top priority in all European food sectors, you can expect most buyers to request extra guarantees from you in the form of certification. For dried beans in both the production and the processing (cleaning and packing) you need to comply with recognised food management systems.

Tips:

Organic certification

In 2015, only 2.2% of the European cultivation area for dry pulses consisted of organic crops. Most farms with organic pulses were located in Italy and Germany.

Although organic certified dried beans are still a niche, several specialised European buyers focus on the growing organic market. To supply organic dried beans in the European Union you need to use production methods as laid down in European Union legislation.

Tips:

Social compliance & sustainability

European buyers are paying increasing attention to their corporate responsibilities concerning the social and environmental impact of their business. As an exporter you are part of the supply chain and share this responsibility.

Tips:

Quality requirements

If you are planning to export dried beans to Europe, you will have to meet the right quality standards. Normally these standards are set by the European Commission or the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE). There are no European standards for dried beans. It is best to follow the quality standards in the Codex Alimentarius: International standard for certain pulses, including dried beans

For European buyers dried beans must meet the following requirements:

  • Dried beans must be safe and fit for human consumption
  • Free from abnormal flavour, odour and living insects
  • Free from dirt in amounts that may be a hazard to human health
  • Seeds with serious defects: max 1%
  • Maximum discolouration 3%
  • Maximum moisture level 15% (in tropical climates)
  • Moisture levels must be lower in certain climates or when transported or stored for longer periods
  • Extraneous matter less than 1% (of which mineral matter <0.25% and dead insects <0.1%)
  • Quality in accordance with EU regulation on contaminants, maximum residue limits (MRLs) and microbiological properties

Labelling requirements

If you want to export to Europe, you must label your product. These labels must comply with European regulation. You can read more about food labelling on the EU Trade Helpdesk. For information about consumers labels see European Union Regulation 1169/2011. Providing nutritional information will also be compulsory starting from December 2016.

The following items should be on the label of pre-packed dried beans:

  • Official product name
  • Physical condition or treatment
  • List of ingredients and allergens
  • Class, size (code), number of batches, net weight in metric units
  • Statement that the product is destined for human consumption
  • Best-before date or use-by date
  • Instructions or special conditions for storage or use
  • Place of origin or provenance
  • Name and address of the importer established in the European Union
  • Name and address of exporter
  • Lot marking on pre-packaged foodstuffs (to ensure traceability of individual batches)

In addition, the label should include any certification logo (if applicable) and/or retailer logo (in the case of products marketed under a private label).

You should use English on you labels, unless your buyer indicates otherwise.

Multilingual labels are commonly used on consumer packaging, but the language of the destination country must be included in any case.

Packaging and handling requirements

Polypropylene or multilayer paper bags with a capacity of 25 kg are commonly used as packaging for dried beans, but 1000 kg bags are also sometimes employed. Different buyers may have different preferences.

If you want to use other forms of packaging, you should take European Union legislation for food contact materials into account.

Some other requirements:

  • Dried beans should kept dry, dark, cool and well ventilated during storage, loading and shipment.
  • Dried beans from different harvest periods should not be mixed. Older seeds will downgrade the entire lot.
  • Containers should be clean and the cargo must be protected from moisture, pests and cross-contamination (especially with organic produce).

What are the requirements for niche markets?

Fair trade and environmental certification

Fair trade and sustainable certification is still an insignificant requirement for dried beans by European buyers. However, it can help your product to stand out from the mass of competitors and attract consumers who are more aware of these issues. As a smaller supplier you can anticipate on the future growth of fair trade by preparing your company on the certification requirements.

Tips:

  • If your product complies with a fair-trade scheme, find a specialised European buyer who is familiar with sustainable and/or fair trade products.
  • Read about fair trade and environmental certification in the study on buyer requirements for grains and pulses in Europe.

5 . What competition do you face on the European dried bean market?

What are the opportunities and barriers?

Quality and food safety are important issues to differentiate your company from other suppliers. European buyers are very aware of the potential quality risks when purchasing dried beans. They will ask for samples and will get these analysed in laboratories to ensure they receive the right quality. In trusted relationships quality control could take place more often in origin and samples are not needed.

As a supplier you have to know the quality of your product, but the quality test in your home country is not necessarily conclusive for your buyer. The tests done in laboratories in a European country may differ considerably from tests by laboratories in your country, for example in terms of parameters tested and the residue levels that are considered permissible

The European market is not protected by import tariffs. The general import tariff for dried beans in Europe is 0%.

Tips:

  • Make sure your product is absolutely clean and if samples are sent, make sure the sample is representative and corresponds to the shipment you have planned.
  • Prove yourself to be a reliable supplier in order to establish a long-term trade relation. Efficient communication and meeting agreements are essential to build trust.
  • See our tips for doing business with European buyers of grains and pulses.

What are substitute products?

Consumers can switch easily between different types of dried beans or simply purchase the product they are most familiar with. For typical dishes the preference for a certain type of bean is more determined. Consumer packed dried beans are easiest substituted by pre-cooked or canned beans. To avoid the dependence on one dried bean variety, as an exporter you can include different types in your offer or even consider processing dried beans into convenience products.

Tip:

  • Make sure to have an attractive offer of different bean varieties so you can easily combine or switch between products.

Who are your rivals?

The competition in dried beans depends on the variety, volume, local demand and international pricing. Differences in quality between supplying countries is also a strong influence where beans are sourced. This means that the competitive landscape can shift accordingly.

For the bulk varieties of kidney beans (such as navy beans), large suppliers in the USA, Canada and China are important competitors. For smaller exotic varieties you have better opportunities as a medium-large supplier from a developing country.

Table 4: Main non-European suppliers of dry beans to Europe, in 2017, in million euros

Product

Total European imports value

Main
non-European suppliers

Kidney beans

453,8

Canada 115,7
USA 85,3
Argentina 60,6
China 57,7
Egypt 15,4

Mung beans

43,9

Myanmar 16
China 8,1
Australia 2,8
India 2,4
Argentina 1,6

Other dried beans

41,9

Canada 7,8
USA 6,0
China 3,1
Myanmar 2,1
Madagascar 1,9

Cowpeas

9,1

Madagascar 2,9
Peru 2,1
Brazil 1,4
Myanmar 0,3
China 0,2

Small red (adzuki) beans

6,6

China 2,1
USA 0,7
Canada 0,4
Ethiopia 0,1
Kyrgyzstan 0,1

Bambara beans

0,6

Turkey
Canada
China
Madagascar

Source: ITC Trademap

Tips:

  • Keep up to date on the annual forecast provided by international and regional associations, such as Pulse Canada and Pulse USA, to estimate your competitive position.
  • Get experienced in the trade of dried beans first before competing for the European market. Don’t underestimate your competition and the quality requirements in Europe.

How much power do I have as a supplier when negotiating with buyers?

Large food retailers have a strong position in Europe and correspondingly large buying power.

Unless you are supplying a niche type of dried bean or offering a superior quality-price ratio, you will have limited room for negotiation. The market for organic dried beans can be easier in negotiation, but will be much more challenging in quality compliance.

Tips:

  • Improve your competitive position. Convince your buyer that you are a valuable trading partner, for example by gaining additional certification, introducing basic processing of your product or combining it with complementary products, such as other types of pulses or special grains.
  • Evaluate the possibility of integrating your supply chain with that of a strong partner in Europe. This facilitates the supply to the major retail channels or big food processors. Make sure your company is ready for such commitment in terms constant quality and reliable supply.

6 . What do the trade channels and market segments of interest for dried beans in Europe look like?

Well-developed trade channels

The trade channels for dried beans are well developed, which means that businesses are mature and experienced.

Beans arrive in Europe through importers that are specialised in sourcing, trading and/or managing local brands. These are the companies you should aim for as a foreign supplier.

Some of the large sourcing companies build their own processing facilities in the production country, making it harder for you as an exporter to join the international trade. As an exporter it is important to have a cleaning and packing facility, or at least have access to one.

Tip:

  • Make sure to have access to a HACCP certified cleaning and packing facility for beans.

Supermarkets are the main segments for dried beans

Most of the dried beans are sold through supermarkets. Catering establishments (such as restaurants), ethnic stores and street markets are smaller segments, but also offer beans and can be more interesting for exotic varieties. Online sales through web shops is increasing, especially in northern Europe. If you offer organic beans, you can also target specialised organic shops.

In Europe, beans can be purchased dried and packaged or pre-cooked and preserved, for example canned or frozen. The product factsheet for canned fruit and vegetables provides more insights on the processed food market.

Tips:

  • Look for potential buyers at major trade events, such as SIAL, Anuga and Biofach (for organic products). This is also a good way of checking out the European competition.
  • See the research on trade channels and market segments for grains and pulses. These provide you with general, but more detailed information.

7 . What are the end-market prices for dried beans?

Prices vary little between varieties, dried and canned beans

Retail prices for regular dried beans in Europe vary between 2.5 and 5 euros per kilo. Canned beans go for similar prices (2 – 5 euros per kilo). Only more exotic beans such as adzuki beans are sometimes sold for a slightly higher price, depending on the brand.

For exporters it is important to realise that trade prices and retail prices are not directly linked and behave in their own way.

Tip:

  • Find information on consumer prices in online shops or the websites of supermarket chains, such as Tesco, Albert Heijn or Carrefour.

Please review our market information disclaimer.

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