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Drought impacted 2021 sunflower production

Nisian Hughes/Getty Images dired sunflower
SOUTH DAKOTA LEADS: Even with drought conditions, South Dakota led the country as the top-producing sunflower state, with 817.8 million pounds produced.
Sunflower Extra: Dry conditions led to a 36% reduction in production last year.

Severe to extreme drought conditions were prevalent throughout the Dakotas and Minnesota this growing season. The impact of the drought showed up in USDA’s 2021 production estimate, as sunflower production totaled 1.90 billion pounds, down 36% from 2020.

The U.S. average yield per acre of 1,530 pounds decreased 260 pounds from 2020. Planted area at 1.29 million acres was 25% below the previous year. Area harvested also decreased 25% from 2020 to 1.24 million acres.

South Dakota regained its status as the leading sunflower-producing state during 2021, with total production of 817.8 million pounds, a decrease of 30% from 2020. Compared with 2020, planted area in South Dakota decreased 16% and yield decreased 278 pounds to 1,632 pounds per acre.

Meanwhile, production in North Dakota decreased 43% from 2020 to 762 million pounds. Planted acreage in North Dakota at 494,000 acres decreased 33% from the previous year. The average yield in North Dakota decreased 291 pounds from 2020 to 1,581 pounds per acre.

Oil-type sunflowers down

USDA estimated U.S. production of oil-type sunflower varieties at 1.74 billion pounds, representing a decrease of 34% from 2020. Compared with last year, harvested acres were down 22%, and the average yield decreased by 279 pounds with a yield of 1,523 pounds per acre.

Production of confection sunflower varieties was estimated at 167 million pounds, a decrease of 54% from 2020. Area harvested at 104,300 acres was down 51% from 2020. The average yield decreased by 109 pounds from 2020 to 1,602 pounds per acre.

In its grain stocks report, USDA increased old-crop non-oil sunflower stocks in all positions by 4.9 million pounds, up 5% from its September grain stocks report. Old-crop oil-type sunflower stocks were increased slightly by 2 million pounds. The grain stocks report was in line with trade expectations for both crops.

The sunflower market has been following the trend of stronger oil values. Oil stocks are tighter than a year ago, and there are some concerns for palm oil production this year due to pandemic-related labor shortages reducing overall production.

This scenario looks promising for high oil content seeds such as sunflower. This fundamental in combination with strong seed demand has led to robust nearby prices at the crush plants since harvest began. It is very possible that the market low has already been established and prices will remain relatively firm.

The main market mover from April onward will be USDA’s March Prospective Plantings report. Trade expectations about planted acreage will likely be in a wide range, and the competition for acres will be intense before planting gets underway.

New-crop sunflower prices are penciling out well, as crushers and confection processors are out with attractive 2022 production contracts. Also consider that with sunflower contracts, you have the Act of God clause, which is helpful for locking in a profitable price and reducing some risk. To keep up with price movement, visit

Sandbakken is executive director of the National Sunflower Association.


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