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Sunflower market for 2022 has strong potential

Larry Lee Photography/Getty Images Field of sunflowers
TRY IT OUT: Give sunflowers another look, as 2022 might just be the crop’s most profitable year.
Sunflower Extra: Market should be aggressive in adding acres to replenish stocks and meet demand.

Before we look ahead to 2022, let’s examine how the 2021 growing season turned out.

What a difference a year makes. The overall U.S. sunflower yield was the highest yield on record in 2020. Then in 2021, severe to extreme drought occurred in much of the Dakotas and parts of Minnesota, leading to a difficult growing season and leaving many in the trade scratching their heads about where the final yield would end up.

As would be expected, yield reports during harvest were inconsistent, ranging from below average to above average depending on the weather conditions an area experienced during the year.

In October, USDA released its first production estimate of the 2021 sunflower crop. USDA pegged 2021 sunflower production at 1.90 billion pounds, down 36% from the revised 2020 production of 2.98 billion pounds. The October yield forecast for all sunflower types, at 1,554 pounds per acre, was 236 pounds lower than 2020’s yield. Sunflower growers expect to harvest 1.22 million acres, down 27% from 2020. USDA will release its next production estimate in January.

No estimates are out yet on 2022 oil-type sunflower acres, but industry analysts believe that acres will increase given the interest they are hearing from producers.

Based on historical usage, an increase in acres of 20% to 25% in 2022 can easily be added given current demand without impacting present prices to a great degree. Sunflower oil consumption in the U.S. has grown 5% to 10% in each of the last three years. With that trend showing no sign of slowing down, the sunflower market should be aggressive in 2022 to get acres to replenish stocks and meet demand.

Contract availability

As of this writing, crushers in the Northern Plains are offering both 2022 cash and Act of God contracts for NuSun and high-oleic sunflowers. Cash NuSun prices are $27.20 to $27.60, with AOG at $26.70 to $27.10 per cwt. High-oleic cash prices are $27.70 to $27.85, with AOG at $27.20 to $27.35.

In the High Plains, high-oleic AOG contracts are at $27.50 per cwt. Something else to consider is the oil premiums that crush plants pay on sunflowers. Sunflower is the only oilseed that pays premiums for oil content above 40%.

Considering oil premiums that are offered at the crush plants on oil content above 40% at a rate of 2% price premium for each 1% of oil above 40%, this pushes a contract with 45% oil content gross return 10% higher per cwt. The AOG $26.70 contract increases to $29.35, and the cash $27.60 contract moves up over $30.35. Oil premiums can give your bottom line a serious boost come delivery time.

If you have not considered growing sunflowers for a few years, take another look, and you’ll be surprised how this crop’s genetics have changed. As you prepare your crop budgets for this year take another look at sunflowers. You might be looking at your most profitable crop in 2022.

To find confection and oil sunflower buyers to talk about contracting opportunities, check out the National Sunflower Association at sunflowernsa.com.

Sandbakken is the executive director of the National Sunflower Association. He writes from Bismarck, N.D.
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