Sunflowers down, but not out in Western Canada

CNS Canada — Canadian sunflower plantings will be down in 2017, but perhaps not by as much as the official government estimate.

Statistics Canada forecast the country’s sunflower area at only 50,000 acres in its planting intentions report. That would be down from 70,000 the previous year and the second-lowest acreage base of the past 40 years.

However, the industry thinks the StatsCan number is a little low, with actual intentions likely 5,000 to 10,000 acres above the official estimate, according to Darcelle Graham, executive director of the National Sunflower Association of Canada.

Contract prices for confectionary seed were up on the year, she noted, while oilseed prices were steady. “From a marketing side, processors are still interested in contracting sunflower acres if they can get them.”

Sunflowers are competing with many other crop options, with soybeans in particular accounting for more and more acres in the main sunflower-growing regions of Manitoba.

“You don’t see an increase in soybeans without it coming from somewhere,” said Graham.

While confectionary seed prices did show an improvement over the year, there are challenges in reaching human consumption standards, while the marketing options for oilseed varieties are also more abundant.

However, there are currently no commercial sunflower oil processors in Canada, with the country “the No. 1 importer of sunflower oil from the U.S.,” said Graham.

There are efforts underway looking to bring some sunflower crush capacity back to the country, she said.

“Hopefully it’s a niche market we can work on,” she said, noting the introduction of a domestic processor would also require increased acres.

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

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