THE BLOG
02/02/2018 04:50 SAST | Updated 02/02/2018 04:51 SAST

Sunflower Seed Production Is Declining -- This Is Why It's A Problem

In 2017/18, global sunflower seed production could decline by two percent year-on-year to 49-million tons.

Ognen Teofilovski/ Reuters

HuffPost SA

Okay folks, this is basically to scratch my own farming itch, but also to spark some insight into sunflower seed production trends globally and in South Africa. Recent estimates from SUNSEEDMAN suggest that 2017/18 global sunflower seed production could decline by two percent year-on-year to 49-million tons.

This comes on the back of a decrease in the area planted in the Black Sea region (Russia and Ukraine), as well as expectations of relatively lower yields in other key sunflower seed-producing countries such as Hungary, the U.S., Kazakhstan and Spain, among others.

The Black Sea region, particularly Ukraine and Russia, remains the heart of global sunflower seed production, despite the expected decline for this season mentioned above. Ukraine alone accounts for a 29 percent share of the global sunflower seed crop. Its 2017/18 crop is set to fall by seven percent from the previous season to 14-million tons, partially driven by a three percent annual decline in area plantings to 6.2-million hectares.

Russia is set to be the second-largest global sunflower seed producer, with the 2017/18 crop estimated at 11-million tons – also down by seven percent from the previous season. This is on the back of expected lower yields, following unfavourable weather conditions earlier in the season.

Contrary to these results in the Black Sea region, there is some optimism in Argentina. This is due to an uptick in area plantings spurred on by price competition.

Moreover, the deregulation of the agricultural market, which saw the Argentinian sunflower seed industry relaxing export taxes, has also motivated farmers to gear up production with an aim to serve export markets. This puts Argentina's 2017/18 sunflower seed production estimate at 3.8-million tons (up by 12 percent from the previous season).

China is set to be the world's fourth-largest sunflower seed producer in the 2017/18 production season, with an overall crop estimated at 3-million tons, up by seven percent from the previous season. This follows a marginal uptick in area planted, as well as better yields.

In Africa, South Africa is the only country that features in the top 15 global sunflower seed producers - ranked at number 12 and making up a two percent share of global production.

Eastern Europe is also set to see widespread increases in 2017/18 sunflower seed production, with Romania and Bulgaria's crop estimated at 2.2-million tons (up by 15 percent year-on-year) and 2.1-million tons (up by 11 percent year-on-year) respectively.

Turkey, France, Spain, Moldova, Kazakhstan and Serbia are also within the top 15 global sunflower seed producers, with the 2017/18 crop estimated at 1.6-million tons, 1.3-million tons, 625,000 tons, 825,000 tons, 750,000 tons and 575,000 tons respectively.

In Africa, South Africa is the only country that features in the top 15 global sunflower seed producers – ranked at number 12 and making up a two percent share of global production. In the 2016/17 production season, South Africa's sunflower seed production reached 874,595 tons.

This was up by 16 percent from the previous season due to higher yields, which were made possible by good summer rainfall.

For the 2017/18 season, SUNSEEDMAN estimated that South Africa's sunflower seed production could increase by three percent from the 2016/17 season to 900,000 tonnes, boosted by the anticipation of an increase in area plantings and higher yields.

Given the dry and warm weather conditions experienced in the past few weeks across the central and western parts of South Africa, I doubt the country will achieve anything close to this estimate. Farmers in North West and the western parts of Free State could not successfully plant the intended area due to dryness, which is likely to lead to a decline in production of the sunflower seed.

HuffPost SA