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  • Dry beans are a pulse crop. Pulse crops are legumes that grow for one year and are harvested for the dry grain or seed inside the pod. Other major pulse crops include millet, dry peas, lentils, Chickpeas, Pigeon peas, and Bambara groundnut. Pulses are popular crops in the developing world.
  • Dry beans are available to the consumer either as packed dry beans or already cooked and preserved in a can. Red speckled, Large White Kidney and Small White beans are canned in a saline solution and can also be canned in tomato sauce (baked beans). The difference between beans canned in tomato sauce and those canned in a saline solution (brine) is that the latter can be used for any recipe, including puddings, cake, etc.
  • Dry beans is an important niche market in South Africa. It has a high water use efficiency and contribute to soil quality by fixing nitrogen in the soil (which reduces the need for chemical fertiliser). It can be used as feedstuff for animals and plays a major role in food security, especially so since it is a vegetable protein.
Source: Dry Beans Producer Organisation; A Profile of the South African Dry Bean Market Value Chain (see "Websites & publications" heading).

International business environment


Major producers of dry beans include China, USA, Brazil, India, Argentina, Mexico and Myanmar.


Some international websites


 South Africa: imports and exports

In the 2020 marketing year (MY), South Africa imported 30 544 tons of dry beans. Imports came mostly from Botswana, Brazil, China, Ethiopia, Malawi and Canada (USDA, 2021). Exports went to eSwatini, Zimbabwe, India and Vietnam (USDA, 2021).

The expected dry bean crop in the 2021 MY is estimated at 56 577 tons, down 13 percent from the previous MY. As a result, dry bean imports are expected to increase by six percent to 32 000 tons, and exports are expected to decrease by 20 percent to 29 000 tons (USDA, 2021).

The landed costs of imported beans, determined largely by the then current exchange rate of the Rand in relation to the US Dollar, have a definite influence on the local price structure. The prices obtained for locally produced beans are also influenced by the quality of the beans on offer (locally produced versus the imported product). A strengthening of the Rand in relation to the US Dollar also encourages higher volumes of imports.

Local business environment

South Africa planted 47 390 hectares of dry beans for the 2021 season, down 13 percent on the previous season. This will mean higher imports and fewer exports (USDA, 2021).

One reason given for the decline in production is that yield levels have not increased at the same rate as maize and oilseeds, resulting in lower profit margins. Technology changes are required to improve dry bean productivity (USDA, 2021). That South Africa relies on imports is offered as a reason for farmers located in suitable production areas to enter the market.

Dry beans are grown in Limpopo (35%), Free State (26%), North West (15%) and Mpumalanga (15%) (DALRRD, 2022). The dry bean production areas in South Africa as follows:



Free State Bethlehem (including the Aberfeldy/Afrikaskop area), Fouriesburg, Ficksburg, Clocolan, Harrismith, Kroonstad, Henneman
KwaZulu-Natal Kokstad, Vryheid, Bergville/Winterton, Greytown, Weenen, Mooi River
Limpopo Thabazimbi, Koedoeskop, Marble Hall, Tuinplaas, Vaalwater, Ohrigstad, Mashishing (Lydenburg), Burgersfort
Mpumulanga/Gauteng Middelburg, Nigel (including the Bloekomspruit/ Grootvlei area), Delmas (including the Sundra, Eloff, Waaikraal, Kendal area), Ermelo (including the Chrissiesmeer,/Lothair area).
North West Brits,  Lichtenburg, Koster, Rysmierbult
Northern Cape Kimberley, Douglas, Modderrivier

Bean producers have the choice to sell directly to the trade or supply their product to the first point of sale in the bean marketing chain such as wholesalers and co-operatives. Beans can be sold to packers or processors and if they are unbranded they are sold in the informal market through spaza shops and hawkers. If they are branded they get to the formal market through the chain stores e.g. Pick ‘n Pay, Hyperama, Woolworths and Checkers/Shoprite. Split beans can also be exported to niche markets in the form of flour, and the bread and pasta industry make use of it.

Source: Dry Beans Producer Organisation; USDA Foreign Agricultural Services report The South African Dry Bean Industry (2021, June); A Profile of the South African Dry Bean Market Value Chain (see "Websites & publications").



The Southern African Grain Laboratory

For the newcomer

Dry beans work well in a crop rotation system with maize on suitable soils. The recommendation is one year of dry beans out of three to four years in a crop rotation system. In a dry bean crop rotation system the long-term yield of maize has been increased by as much as 1 ton/ha. On high-yield soils the introduction of a dry bean/maize crop rotation system could drastically improve the profitability of both the dry bean and maize crops.

Find details of two publications, Dry Bean Production and Dry Bean Production and Disease Manual under “Websites & publications“. These cover the technical information required for growing dry beans.

Dry beans play an important role in the production systems of many small-scale farmers in South Africa The major part of beans produced by small-scale farmers is used for home consumption and/or traded at local markets. Despite limitations hampering the production of dry beans in this sector, the indications are that this sector can make a substantial contribution to dry bean production in South Africa. Support to small-scale producers is currently provided by the ARC-Grain Crops (ARC-GC), and its main partner, the Dry Bean Producers Organisation (DPO).

Role players


  • Dry Bean Producers’ Organisation (DPO) The DPO provides industry-related services (like supplying production and marketing information) to the bean producer. It manages the research done, and is responsible for product and market development.



  • The DPO offers the following courses: (1) One-day courses on the production of dry beans in conjunction with the ARC-Grain Crops. (2) A dry bean grading course on the basis of their comprehensive Dry Bean Production and Disease Manual.



  • The major research partner of the DPO (and the bean industry) is the ARC-Grain Crops at Potchefstroom. Read about them at A study of the characteristics of the different dry bean cultivars is available. The purpose of this study is to help the producers to select the correct cultivars for their purposes and the area in which they are located.



  • The A Profile of the South African Dry Bean Market Value Chain includes a list of all dry bean traders and dry bean packers (see “Websites & publications“).
  • The following can all be contacted at the DPO: (1) Beanex (links producers and buyers) (2) Plantovita (seed and laboratory services) (3) Cropcell (research development) (4) Dry Bean Seed (supplies seed). Read about them at
  • McDonald Seeds
  • Pannar supplies seed. Visit


Websites and publications

Available from the Dry Bean Producers Organisation (DPO) are publications like: (i) A number of free information brochures in connection with the health benefits of dry beans as well as a new recipe book entitled Bean Renaissance – the intelligent food choice (also available in Afrikaans) (ii) SA Dröebone Drybeans magazine (iii) Root Diseases of Dry Beans and the Dry Bean Production and Disease Manual. The latter comprehensive publication is available from the DPO and the ARC-GC .

Publications are available from the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD) website, (i) Find the latest annual A Profile of the South African Dry Bean Market Value Chain on the Directorate Marketing web pages. (ii) Two production guides can be found under “Resource centre”, namely the Info Pak “Dry Bean Production” (information supplied by the ARC-GC), and “Dry beans production“. Find production brochures here for other pulse crops too like Cowpeas, Chick peas etc.

CD Roms from the ARC-PPR (Plant Protection Research) include: (i) Crop Pests, Vol. 4: Field Crops and Pastures Pastures  (ii) Medically Important Spiders And Scorpions Of Southern Africa. Write to booksales [at] or infopri [at]

Consult the AgriSETA Learner Guide Primary Agriculture “Harvesting agricultural crops”.

With regard to quality control an important documents is the Regulations related to the Grading, Packaging and Marking of Dry Beans destined for sale in the Republic of South Africa as published in Government Gazette No. 23571 on 5 July 2002, and its amendment.

Watch the National Agricultural Marketing Council (NAMC) presentation (2015) on the launch of the “Dry bean development scheme”, a collaboration with the Limpopo Department of Agriculture (LDA), Kopano Co-operative, Tiger Brands Foods and Northern Seed Producers. Visit

Dean S. 2018, October 21. “Sugar beans: A good harvest against the odds”. Farmer’s Weekly. Available at

Find the North Dakota Ag Mag on pulses at

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