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What’s next for sunflowers in 2024?What’s next for sunflowers in 2024?

Sunflower Extra: National Association shares outlook for the crop in the next year.

John Sandbakken

November 21, 2023

3 Min Read
field of sunflowers
WHAT’S NEXT: The National Sunflower Association reflects on the challenges of the 2023 growing season, and looks forward to what’s happening in 2024.John Lamb/Getty Images

Before we look ahead to 2024, let’s look at how the 2023 growing season turned out. The past growing season was delayed by a winter storm that hit the Dakotas and Minnesota in April. A late start to planting had crop development behind the five-year average.

Despite the snow that delayed planting, moisture was hard to come by during the early portion of the growing season. By the time producers were finished planting, many were crying for rain.

In the High Plains, Kansas producers faced severe drought conditions that did not let up throughout the growing season. Colorado started out in a drought as well. However, the water sprinkler turned on in May and did not stop until many areas had a year’s worth of moisture in a month.

To top things off, a widespread powerful winter storm hit the High Plains, Dakotas and Minnesota in mid-October resulting in some yield loss. This is leaving many in the trade scratching their heads about where the overall 2023 final production figure will end up.

What about 2024?

In USDA’s October sunflower production report, 2023 production was forecast at 2.19 billion pounds, down 22% from the revised 2022 production of 2.81 billion pounds. USDA cut 1.77 million pounds from oil sunflower production but added 455,000 pounds to non-oil type production from last year.

Area planted, at 1.32 million acres, was down 2% from the June estimate and down 22% from last year. Sunflower growers expected to harvest 1.26 million acres, down 2% from the June forecast and down 21% from 2022.

No estimates are out yet on 2024 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 2024 can easily be added given current demand without impacting present prices to a great degree.

Sunflower oil consumption in the U.S. has increased 50% in the past five years. With that trend showing no sign of slowing down, the sunflower market should be aggressive in 2024 to get acres to meet growing demand.

According to USDA figures, confection sunflowers have offered one of the highest returns per acre available in the sunflower-growing region since 2010 and is expected to continue this year as well.

A combination of increased demand and reduced seed stocks from previous crop years resulted in higher contracted acres in 2023. Processors will want to keep the seed pipeline full to meet anticipated post-pandemic domestic and export market demand. Thus, the need for confection acres is expected to be strong in 2024.

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 sunflower. You might be looking at your most profitable crop in 2024.

To find confection and oil sunflower buyers to contract with, visit sunflowernsa.com.

Sandbakken is executive director of the National Sunflower Association.

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About the Author(s)

John Sandbakken

Executive director, National Sunflower Association

John Sandbakken of Mandan, N.D., has been the executive director of the National Sunflower Association since 2012. Before his current post, he was NSA's international marketing director for 16 years.

The National Sunflower Association is a combination of United States sunflower growers and industry members. NSA is a nonprofit organization working in the areas of market development, education, production and utilization research.

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