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closeup of sunflower head Lon Tonneson
2019 PRICES: USDA is out with its initial sunflower production and price estimates.

USDA projects sunflower prices for 2019

Analysts estimate the oil-type sunflower crop will be 1.9 billion pounds in 2019.

USDA expects the prices of oil-type and confection-type sunflower seeds to be around $16.10 and $21.60 per cwt, respectively, this year.

USDA analysts currently estimate that the U.S oil-type sunflower crop for 2019 will be 1.9 billion pounds, which is about equal to last year. This is based on a slightly higher planted acreage and a return to a lower trend yield.

Oil-type sunflower accounts for about 89% of total acreage. Domestic crush of sunflower is expected to increase by 5% this marketing year to 1.1 billion pounds. Exports of sunflower oil are predicted down slightly to 85 million pounds as domestic consumption continues to rise. Birdfood demand is projected to be equal to last year.  

USDA analysts currently project confection sunflower production to be up modestly this year on an increase in intended acreage and a modest increase in yield. Exports in 2018-19 have lagged the 2017-18 pace, although with last year’s smaller crop, ending stocks could still be relatively tight, with only slightly higher beginning stocks in 2019-20.

Canada and South Korea remain the largest importers of sunflower kernel, while Spain, Mexico and Israel are the largest importers of in-shell confection seed. As of March 1, USDA’s Grain Stocks reported inventories of non-oil-type sunflower seed were 152 million pounds, down from 191 million a year earlier.

For the 2019-20 marketing year, global sunflower seed output is projected down 1% to 51 million metric tons (MMT). In Ukraine, sunflower production may slip to 14.8 MMT as an area decline offsets a rising yield trend. A smaller harvest would thereby scale back the sunflower seed crush by 2% to 14.5 MMT. Russia’s sunflower acreage is expected to remain steady with production at 12.5 million tons. In the European Union, sunflower area is seen increasing only 4%. European Union sunflower production is expected to match the 2018-19 harvest of 9.7 MMT.

Slightly lower Argentine sunflower production is seen for 2019-20 based on a trend yield just below last season’s crop. The Argentine-planted area could be constrained by a weakened price. The attractiveness of sunflower is also diminished due to a reintroduction of Argentine export taxes on sunflower last year. With lower production, Argentine crush is expected to be reduced from 2018-19.

Now that the South American oilseed harvest is finished, the attention of the oilseed market will shift to U.S. crop conditions and production prospects in the months ahead. New crop sunflower seed prices could see some pressure from lower prices in the soybean market during the first part of the marketing year. This can change dramatically over the course of the next few months depending upon the number of acres planted and yields achieved at harvest.

Sandbakken is the director of the National Sunflower Association.
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