It’s been a difficult fall for producers trying to get their crops off the fields, including sunflower. Wet, cool weather and even an early season snow storm have combined to slow harvest progress way behind average. But the silver lining to this problem is that the slow harvest has given support to sunflower prices.

“The slow harvest deliveries have led to a market rally in nearby prices at the crush plants,” said John Sandbakken, executive director of the National Sunflower Association, writing in NSA’s weekly newsletter on Nov. 25. “November prices have gained 20 to 40 cents per hundredweight.”

Looking at prices at the region’s crush plants, NuSun sunflower was listed at $18 per hundredweight for delivery in December at both ADM in Enderlin, N.D., and also at Cargill in Fargo, N.D.

High-oleic prices were $18.40 at both locations for December delivery as well. Elsewhere in North Dakota, high-oleic prices for December delivery were $18.40 at Pingree and $17.50 at Hebron.

Sandbakken also noted that “2020 new crop prices have seen some upward movement as well gaining 20 to 30 cents.”

NuSun new crop prices for 2020 were listed at $18 cash and $17.50 with an Act of God clause (AOG) at Enderlin and $17.90 cash and $17.65 with an AOG at Fargo.

2020 new crop high-oleic sunflower at Enderlin were listed at $18.50 cash and $18 with an AOG. At Fargo, new crop high-oleic prices were listed at $18.40 cash and $18.15 with an AOG.

While better prices help bring some relief, the slow harvest continues is still top of mind awareness to producers who are trying to complete this year’s harvest.

“High moisture seed and cold weather continues to hamper harvest progress in the largest production area of the Dakotas and Minnesota remaining behind the five-year average pace,” Sandbakken said.

In North Dakota, only 31 percent of the crop had been harvested as listed in the NSA newsletter on Nov. 25. That is way behind the 67 percent recorded last year and the 77 percent for the five-year average. In Minnesota, sunflower harvest was 50 percent complete versus 82 percent last year and 89 percent on average. South Dakota producers had completed 47 percent of harvest which compares to 54 percent last year and 75 on average.

Results thus far indicate that oil content for the sunflower crop in the Northern Plains is at 42.8 percent, slightly lower than the 44.3 percent in 2018. The moisture level, at 11.2 percent, is up about 2.5 percentage points from the 8.8 percent recorded last year, and test weight this year is 29.3 pounds. That compares to 31.8 pounds last year.

On the other hand, harvest is close to wrapping up in the High Plains and is ahead of normal. In the week ending Nov. 22, producers in that region harvested an additional 47,000 acres pushing 2019 harvested acres to about 585,000 acres. This represents 48 percent of this year’s projected harvested acres and is behind the five-year average of 92 percent.

Sandbakken also suggested that producers consider the oil premiums that crush plants pay on sunflower as it is the only oilseed that pays premiums for oil content above 40 percent.

“Considering oil premiums that are offered at the crush plants on oil content above 40 percent at a rate of 2 percent price premium for each 1 percent of oil above 40 percent, this pushes a contract with 45 percent oil content gross return 10 percent higher per hundredweight,” he said.

For example, the AOG $17.50 contract increases to $19.25 and the cash $18.50 contract moves up to $20.35.

Going forward, harvest progress, yield and crop quality will be key to prices. Also, price movement in the near term will be affected by trade negotiations between the U.S. and China trade negotiations until a deal is announced.

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