Bumper year for bean prices
by Sam Matthews
Sep 07, 2012 | 2594 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Bean harvest approaches
Juan Lopez looks the 40 acres of blackeye beans as he irrigates the crop in a field off Bird Road on Thursday Sept. 6.  Glenn Moore/Tracy Press
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As Tracy gets ready to celebrate California dry beans at this weekend’s Tracy Dry Bean Festival, fields of blackeyes and baby limas east and south of town are beginning to turn from green to gold, signaling the approaching harvest.

If the hues in blackeye fields appear more golden than usual, there’s good reason. The price for what many people call black-eyed peas has skyrocketed to between $70 and $80 per 100-pound bag, according to Javier Diaz, warehouse manager at Rhodes-Stockton Bean Co-op east of Tracy.

“Usually, blackeyes have sold for close to $40 to $50 a bag, but this year, because of the drought in the Midwest and Southwest, the demand for California blackeyes has really increased,” Diaz reported.

In fact, the local processor and seller of dry beans has been completely out of blackeyes for the past three months. Diaz expects to begin shipping this year’s crop as soon as the beans are processed and bagged.

Besides the domestic market, some of the blackeyes are exported to China through Hong Kong, Diaz reported.

Baby limas, another principal bean variety in the Tracy area, are not experiencing as high a demand as blackeyes and are selling for about $50 a bag, Diaz said. Shipments to Japan, where paste from baby limas is used for a variety of products, are a staple for local bean warehouses.

There is less acreage of large limas in this area.

Garbanzos — a crop grown during the winter months, known to some as chickpeas — were harvested in June, mostly south of the Tracy area. The garbanzos are now being processed at the Rhodes-Stockton Bean Co-op and shipped.

Overall, the bean crop in the Tracy area is slightly smaller than normal, according to Diaz. The increased planting of corn, which is commanding higher than normal prices because of the drought in the central part of the country, is one reason fewer acres of beans are being grown.

“This has been a good growing year for beans,” Diaz said. “The weather has produced good yields, and the crop is coming in about on schedule.”

He expects cutting of the bean bushes will move into gear in a few weeks. The beans then dry out in windrows for two weeks or longer before threshing machines move through the fields. Harvesting will continue through October and well into November. If there are fall storms, completion of the harvest could extend into December, he said.

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