March 21, 2023
What changes will we see in sunflower acres in 2023? I wish there was a crystal ball to predict if they will increase this year, but as you know, there isn’t. The common theme I hear is that sunflowers offer a good alternative for the rotation in 2023, but the jury is still out if acres will increase or not.
From the chatter I am hearing from both producers and processers that are contracting acres, I would say oil acres will stay about the same as last year with confection acres increasing slightly.
Adding further interest in sunflowers is attractive new-crop prices, which are near the levels of a year ago at this same time. Crushing plants are still offering new-crop cash and Act of God production contracts.
AOG clauses basically mean the producer doesn’t have a production risk. If drought, hail, insects, disease, etc., result in a yield loss and you don’t have enough production per acre to cover your sale, the AOG clause kicks in. You are only obligated to deliver what you produced, not what you contracted.
Keep in mind that oils also receive a 2% price premium for each 1% of oil content over 40%. This pushes a contract with 45% oil content gross return 10% higher per cwt and would raise the value of a $26.15 base contract to $28.80 per cwt.
Something else that you will see in 2023 is the continued push toward converting the oil crop from NuSun to high-oleic sunflowers. There is a good market for both oils at this time.
However, trends change, and products need to adapt to consumer preferences. The market wants oils to have zero trans-fat and saturated fat levels at or below 7%. In addition, food processors want oils to be very stable for extended shelf life and fry life coupled with a neutral taste profile.
High-oleic sunflower oil fits the bill on all counts. While NuSun was a positive move for the sunflower industry in the late 1990s, the increasing market demand for high-oleic oils has convinced oil crushers that the industry needs to adjust again.
Most fundamental news for oil has been negative the past few months, putting Chicago Board of Trade soybean oil contracts on the defensive. The cold weather in the U.S. this winter drove crush demand for soybean meal and pressured CBOT soy oil contracts as oil stocks started to build.
Market analysts think this trend will reverse into the spring and summer, with oil prices strengthening as meal demand tapers off. Last year, sunflower seed prices hit the market high in June and July, and this could happen again this year depending on planted acres and growing-season conditions.
In the months ahead, growing-season weather from North America to the Black Sea region will be the main price-setter. Other fundamentals that the markets will be focusing on will be South American corn and soybean production, and the impact it might have on U.S. exports, plus any news from Washington on trade policy.
To keep up with price movement, visit sunflowernsa.com.
Sandbakken is the executive director of the National Sunflower Association and writes from Mandan, N.D.
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