Manitoba sunflower acreage set to drop

Winnipeg (CNS Canada) – The closure of a sunflower processing plant in Alberta has Manitoba sunflower growers feeling uneasy this year.

“Because of the plant closure there’s quite a bit of delay in delivery of the ’17 crop. So it’s discouraged quite a few guys from growing more (sunflowers),” said Ben Friesen, senior market manager for Scoular Canada.

In February, PepsiCo announced it would be closing its Spitz sunflower seed processing plant in Bow Island, Alta. later this year. While the company said it would continue to buy confectionary sunflowers in Canada, due to the closure they are currently delayed on deliveries and many farmers have had to hold onto last year’s crop.

“(PepsiCo are) still buying, will continue to buy, but they’re going to be diverting it to different processing facilities in the U.S. It’s going to be a year where it’s probably caused a bit of confusion and a bit of a downturn on the confection side of sunflowers,” Friesen said.

In Statistics Canada’s principal field crop areas report released last month, the agency predicted a 30.8 percent drop in Canadian sunflower acres (the majority of acres are grown in Manitoba). From information gathered in surveys completed in March, Statistics Canada predicted acreage would drop to 45,000 acres from 65,000 acres.

The prediction doesn’t surprise Friesen. Due to the Bow Island plant closure and what he has heard from producers he expects confection sunflower acreage to drop. However the plant closure isn’t affecting oilseed sunflowers, so he doesn’t expect to see an acreage drop for those.

At the National Sunflower Association of Canada they are more optimistic and are predicting acreage to stay flat at around 65,000 acres.

“It’s still a little bit early to tell just because we’re in the midst of planting and with the dry weather that could also potentially change some growers thoughts on sunflowers,” said Darcelle Graham, executive director of the National Sunflower Association of Canada.

According to Graham, sunflower planting started the second week in May in Manitoba and is on schedule. Sunflowers do well in a drier climate but like most crops require timely rains.

Both Graham and Friesen are hopeful that next year could see a rebound in sunflower acreage. Last year acreage dropped by 7.1 per cent, there had been large carryover stocks from previous years, which held producers back from planting sunflowers.

“I know that supply is starting to dwindle so we’re hoping this year with flat acres that we’ll see increased acres next year,” Graham said.

Sunflowers still give producers a good payout and Friesen is hoping producers are willing to return to growing the crop next year.

“I’m planning and hoping for our facility and everything that we can get back much more into a positive note for the growers for next year to get them out of the delayed procedure. Like it’s a normal delivery crop again for the future,” he said.

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