Mother Nature hasn’t cooperated when it comes to this year’s sunflower harvest, slowing progress. On the other hand, prices have risen as crop deliveries have slowed.

“Excessive rain in September and a mid-October snowstorm has led to extremely wet ground conditions in the Dakotas and Minnesota, resulting in a slow start to sunflower harvest,” said John Sandbakken, National Sunflower Association executive director, commenting in the Oct. 28 NSA newsletter.

As a result of the slow harvest progress, farmers have also been slow in bringing the crop in to the processing plants.  

“The slow harvest deliveries have led to a market rally in nearby prices at the crush plants. October prices have gained 20 to 50 cents per hundredweight,” he said. “Prioritizing sunflower harvest and delivery is a good option to take advantage of right now with the current uptrend in nearby prices.”

As of Oct. 28, old crop NuSun prices at the Cargill crush plant in Fargo, N.D., were listed at $17.45 per hundredweight for delivery in November. At the ADM crush plant in Enderlin, N.D., NuSun prices for delivery in November were $17.40.

High-oleic sunflower prices at Fargo were $17.95, and $17.90 at Enderlin for delivery in November. High-oleic old crop prices at Pingree, N.D., were $17.40 for November delivery and $16.80 at Hebron, N.D.

Sandbakken also pointed out that 2020 new crop sunflower prices are out at the crush plants with cash and Act of God (AOG) contracts available. New crop prices at Enderlin were listed at $17.80 cash and $17.30 with an AOG clause. New crop prices at Fargo were $17.75 cash and $17.50 with an AOG.

2020 new crop prices for high-oleic sunflowers at Fargo were $18.25 cash and $18 with an AOG clause. At Enderlin, 2020 new crop high oleic prices were $18.30 cash and $17.80 with an AOG.

“In the past two weeks, bird food price movement has been mixed with some processor’s prices unchanged and others up about 75 cents,” he said.

While harvest in the Upper Midwest has been slowed by weather, producers in Colorado, Kansas and Texas have made excellent harvest progress and are ahead of the five-year average pace.

According to a USDA crop progress report, by the last full week in October producers had harvested about 120,000 acres.

“This represents 10 percent of this year’s projected harvested acres and is significantly behind the five-year average of 27 percent,” Sandbakken said.

In North Dakota, as of Oct. 28, only 11 percent of the sunflower crop had been harvested. That compares to 46 percent last year and 47 percent for the five-year average. Sunflower harvest in Minnesota was pegged at 20 percent complete, which is well off last year’s pace of 54 percent and 70 percent on average. In South Dakota sunflower harvest was 12 percent complete, not far off the 15 percent pace in 2018, but far behind the 44 percent average.

A much colder dry weather pattern is expected to set in during early November in the tri-state region of North and South Dakota and Minnesota, which Sandbakken noted, should allow for improved ground conditions and some harvest progress.

According to the most recent crop progress report, 53 percent of the sunflower crop in North Dakota was rated in good-to-excellent condition. That compares to 74 percent a month ago which indicates that weather certainly has had an impact on the crop. As of Oct. 28, 32 percent was rated fair and 15 percent poor-to-very poor. In Minnesota, 67 percent of its sunflower crop was rated in good-to-excellent condition as of Oct. 28, with 28 percent rated fair and 5 percent poor-to-very poor.

“Going forward, harvest progress, yield and crop quality will be key to prices,” Sandbakken concluded.

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