Rotational issues may limit Man. sunflower acres

Sunflower acres in Manitoba will likely hold steady on the year, but an increase back toward more traditional averages is seen as unlikely, given rotational issues and competition from other crops.

Manitoba farmers planted 100,000 acres of sunflowers in 2012, which came in well above the 35,000 planted in 2011 when weather issues in the spring left fields unseeded. However, prior to 2011, area to sunflowers had routinely topped 150,000 to 200,000 acres.

There will still be a lot of sunflowers going in the ground in 2013, but it will be hard to say if there will be much of an increase from 2012 levels, said Earl Schnellert of Agri-Tel Grain at Beausejour, Man.

New-crop contracting prices in the 24 to 25 cents per pound area for oilseed sunflowers compare with 30 cents per pound the previous year. New-crop confectionary sunflower seed was contracted in the 27 to 28 cents per pound area this winter.

Those levels are still profitable for growers comfortable with the crop, but the softer prices were deterring any outside interest. "I’m not getting a lot of new (growers), I’m just getting the ones that grew (sunflowers) last year… and it’s not like their acres are up substantially," said Schnellert.

"Other crops are looking good," he added, noting producers in many areas have pushed their rotations with oilseeds quite a bit in recent years, as canola and soybean area have both seen a great deal of interest. "This year, with wheat prices looking fairly reasonable, a lot of guys are planning on putting wheat in for rotational purposes," he said.

"The oilseeds have really paid off the past number of years compared to the cereals," said Schnellert, but now he expected some growers, after pushing rotations, will be going back to wheat or other cereals.

In the spot market, Schnellert said there was still a fair amount of unpriced sunflower seed in the country, with demand picking up recently from Eastern Canada.

— Phil Franz-Warkentin writes for Commodity News Service Canada, a Winnipeg company specializing in grain and commodity market reporting.

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