On June 10, oil sunflower prices hit US $28.80 per hundredweight.
Prices have since backed off that high and buyers were bidding about $27.50 in the middle of June.
Nevertheless, $27 to $28 per cwt. is an outstanding price for sunflowers.
“Sunflower prices are at a nine-year high,” John Sandbakken, U.S. National Sunflower Association executive director, told Fox News in North Dakota. “We have not seen this price level since 2012…. There are some very attractive prices out there.”
The roaring market likely increased acreage of sunflowers in the Dakotas. But north of the border, in Manitoba, sunflower acres may have declined or moved sideways in 2021.
There was a significant jump in acres last year in Manitoba and it’s unlikely that sunflowers will increase again in 2021, said Morgan Cott, an agronomy extension specialist with the Manitoba Crop Alliance.
Last year, Manitoba growers seeded 90,000 acres of oilseed and confection sunflowers, many more than in 2019, when the province had 65,000 acres.
Sunflower prices may be strong this spring but so are prices for other crops. New crop canola futures are priced at $730 per tonne ($16.50 per bushel) and soybean futures are around US $14 per bu.
Growers had many options this spring and may have shifted acres to a familiar crop, like canola.
As well, dry subsoil conditions may have discouraged sunflower plantings.
“They tap down really deep and they really search for moisture,” Cott said. “But because there was so little moisture (at depth), it’s one of those crops that wouldn’t have benefitted this year because it needs a lot of moisture.”
Sunflower prices are close to record highs, mostly because of a boom in the soy oil market this spring. Soy oil and sunflower oil are part of the global vegetable oil market, valued at US $230 billion annually.
And thanks to COVID, demand for birdseed exploded in 2020, which drove up prices of black oil sunflowers.
“I’ve been in bird food for 11 years and this is probably the busiest year that I’ve ever seen,” said Jody Locke, special crops manager with R-WayAg, a company in St. Claude, Man., last year.
“It (the pandemic) has created a new group of people who are feeding birds, who likely never did before.”
Manitoba farmers may have stuck with sunflowers this spring in response to the market conditions.
“I don’t know. I hope (acreage) is that high,” Cott said, noting another year with 90,000 acres is welcome.
The picture will become clearer in a few weeks when Manitoba Agricultural Services Corp. releases its acreage figures for 2021.