Sun shines on oil sunflowers in Manitoba

CNS Canada — Shifting price trends will see Manitoba farmers plant more oilseed sunflowers this year but less of the confectionary varieties, according to industry participants.

Manitoba accounts for nearly all of Canada’s sunflower production, with Statistics Canada forecasting planted area in 2016 at 80,000 acres. That would compare with 100,000 acres the previous year.

Confectionary varieties have traditionally accounted for the bulk of the acreage grown to sunflowers in Manitoba, but “this year, one thing that will be different is that we’ll probably see equal oilseed acres, or a little higher,” said Darcelle Graham, executive director of the National Sunflower Association of Canada.

The price spread between confectionary and oilseed sunflower seed has narrowed to the point where oilseeds are more attractive, she said, especially given their easier quality specs and new herbicide-tolerant varieties.

Declining demand from customers in the Middle East in recent years was also limiting the markets for confectionary seed, she said.

Contract prices for new-crop oilseed sunflower seed had been reported in the 24 cents per pound range, while confectionary seed prices were at around 28 cents, according to market participants. However, confectionary seed is reportedly moving at prices below the oilseed market on occasion in the spot market.

A new buyer in the local market is also creating more opportunities for oilseed sunflower seed, with soybean processor Delmar Commodities recently opening a special crops division to deal in black oil sunflowers for the bird food market.

“The confectionary sunflower market has eroded, as the Middle East has dried up,” said Marc Audet, business development manager with Delmar Commodities.

There were more options for moving oilseed varieties, he said, with the crush, hulling and bird food markets making it easier to find a buyer.

Audet thought the 20,000-acre reduction in total sunflower acreage predicted by Statistics Canada was likely overdone. While confectionary acres will be down, “the black oils will make up that loss, and possibly more,” he said, noting he had heard from some farmers in just the past week who had decided on putting in some oilseed sunflowers.

Graham said there were a number of benefits to growing sunflowers, with the crop’s attributes in helping dry out wet fields bringing in some interest this year.

The perception that sunflowers are a difficult crop to grow is no longer the case, she added. They can also be grown in areas some other cropping options can’t.

Phil Franz-Warkentin writes for Commodity News Service Canada, a Winnipeg company specializing in grain and commodity market reporting. Follow CNS Canada at @CNSCanada on Twitter.

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Phil Franz-Warkentin writes for MarketsFarm specializing in grain and commodity market reporting.

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