With sunflower production pegged slightly higher than a year ago, combined with a crop that is in very good condition and prices at high levels, sunflower producers are excited about the potential for a good year.

Commenting in the Sept. 16 National Sunflower Association (NSA) newsletter, NSA executive director John Sandbakken, said sunflower prices at the crush plants ended the week mixed at down 5 cents to up 25 cents.

As of Sept. 16, old crop NuSun prices at the Cargill crush plant in Fargo, N.D., were listed at $18.50 per hundredweight for delivery in September. Prices were $17.40 for delivery in October and November. At the ADM crush plant in Enderlin, N.D., NuSun prices for delivery in September were $18.40 and $17.30 for delivery in October and November.

Also, high oleic sunflower prices at Fargo were $18.80 for delivery in September and $17.60 for delivery in October and November. At Enderlin, high oleic prices were $18.70 for September delivery and $17.60 for October and November delivery.

High oleic prices at Pingree, N.D., were $17 and $16.40 at Hebron, N.D., for delivery in October.

Sandbakken also pointed out that sunflower is the only oilseed that pays premiums for oil content above 40 percent.

Looking at the 2019 sunflower crop, area planted to sunflower this year increased 3 percent from 2018 and totals 1.33 million acres, according to the September USDA Farm Service Agency crop acreage report. The report also indicated that 1.18 million acres were planted to oil type sunflowers is up 1 percent from 2018, and planted acreage of non-oil varieties is up 13 percent from last year and is estimated at 154,800 acres.

“Using a trend yield, initial estimates peg the U.S. sunflower crop at around 1,000,000 metric tons, which compares to last year’s total of 960,000 metric tons,” Sandbakken said. “If realized, this level of planted acreage will create tight ending stocks at the end of the 2019/20 marketing year given current usage.”

Sandbaken noted that USDA will release its first estimate of U.S. harvested sunflower acres and production in October.

In the Northern Plains, the 2019 crop is looking good. In North Dakota, the sunflower crop is beginning to mature and looking to be in very good shape with 81 percent of the crop rated in good-to-excellent condition, 16 percent fair and 3 percent poor-to-very poor. In Minnesota, 72 percent of the crop is in good-to-excellent condition and 28 percent rated fair.

“USDA pegged global sunflower production in 2019-20 at 52.6 million metric tons, this figure is up about 1.2 million metric tons from last year,” he said, adding larger crops in Russia and Ukraine is the main reason for the larger production estimate. Meanwhile, Argentina and European Union production is expected to be unchanged from last year. Global crush is projected to increase based on the higher production figure, he noted.

“Sunflower oil trade is forecast to rise, supported by very strong demand in India, European Union, North Africa, and the Middle East,” Sandbakken said. “Ending seed stocks are expected to stay relatively low representing only 5.4 percent of annual usage.”

With this year’s crop looking good and producers looking ahead to harvest, Sandbakken again mentioned premiums for oil content as something producers should keep in mind.

“Consider 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,” he said. “This pushes a contract with 45 percent oil content gross return 10 percent higher per hundredweight.

“The $17.60 contract moves up to $19.35 (for example),” he concluded.

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