The global vegetable oil market is largely dominated by palm oil contributing around 34% of the total vegetable oil consumed. Palm oil is followed by soybean oil, canola oil, sunflower seed oil and coconut oil.
Sunflowers have been finding favour in human diets, because of its high level of unsaturated fatty acids and high smoke points. These oils are also very stable and do not need hydrogenation, an important point given the health concerns surrounding the use of hydrogenated oils in food manufacturing.
Reports from an Indian market research company, Mordor Intelligence, sunflowers are now one of the most important oilseed crops globally, with it being used for birdseed, oils (edible and industrial) and for the growing snack market.
Mordor said that “sunflower seed oil production makes up around 8% of the total global vegetable oil production. The Russian Federation, Ukraine, and Argentina are the main producers of sunflower seed and sunflower by-products, as well as suppliers to the global market.
“These three countries produce over half of the sunflower seed in the world, which is why they are often referred to as the Sunflower Triangle.”
Mordor’s research suggests that in the last 10 years, the global sunflower acreage has expanded at 2.7% annually. “From 2005 to 2010, there was a 6 million ha expansion in the Black Sea region. After 2010, the EU recovered 0.5 million sunflower acreage with Ukraine and Russia creating 1 million ha more.
“India, Turkey, and Egypt are some of the major sunflower oil consumers that have participated in market growth by increasing their consumption without increasing the local production.”
The company also says that the global sunflower oil trade accounts for 30% of the total consumption. The European Union is the major destination for the Ukrainian and Argentine exports, whilst countries including Turkey, Egypt, India, and China have turned to sunflower oil imports to sustain the local demand.
According to the FAO, Argentina, Ukraine, and the Russian Federation account for 52% of the global production of sunflower and 40% of the exports of sunflower seeds. The FAO estimates that world sunflower output will be close to 60 million tons by 2050.
“With increased output from Russia and Ukraine in particular, this will be an important supply chain to both countries in the coming decades,” explains Europe General Manager Patrick Dieterich from Nuseed.
“The investment in growing technology and processing in both countries is very clear to see, with an increasing number of growers moving away from farm saved seed into certified and higher yielding hybrids,” he adds. “It is also clear that specific agronomic benefits, such as herbicide tolerance from Clearfield traits, are of increasing interest as growers aim for higher yields and fewer production challenges.”
* Source: OECD-FAO’s Agricultural Outlook 2016-2025
About sunflower types
Sunflower is well known for use of grain and oil. So, overall, we can say there are two main categories of sunflower with many purposes. Oil sunflower grain is crushed to produce high quality oil for human consumption markets. If grown for oil (oilseed) we have both High Oleic and Linoleic sunflower.
The difference between each type is in the levels of polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats in the oil, which are linoleic acid and oleic acid, high oleic oils are considered the healthiest, and have the most monosaturated fat (oleic) that makes up the oil. Linoleic is comprised of more polyunsaturated fats. Kernels of oil sunflower are typically black and smaller in size.
When it comes to confection sunflower or non-oil type, sunflower shells can be completely black (Nuseed Onyx), black with white stripes and there are also completely white… These types can be roasted for human consumption as a seasoned snack and they can also be used in baking (breads in particular). Confection sunflower have larger kernels which are in high demand by processors.
For birdseed markets con-oil sunflowers are the preferred type of sunflower.
Market Developments in the EU
Russia and Eastern Europe, particularly Ukraine, have very important sunflower producing countries to the global sunflower oil market, with rapid growth in the output of crude oil over the past two seasons.
According to European Commission data, in 2017/2018, the global oilseed harvest remained at a high level for the second year in a row. The USDA estimates it at over 570 million t, 1 % down from the previous year. The significant drought-induced drop in oilseed (mainly soya bean) production in Argentina was largely offset by increases in the US (+2 %), Brazil (+3 %), China (+10 %) and the EU (+12 %).