Glacier FarmMedia COVID-19 & the Farm

Sunflowers fight for acres in crowded Manitoba fields

(Bruce Fritz photo courtesy ARS/USDA)

CNS Canada — Better prices have created some optimism for sunflower growers in Western Canada — a feeling that may be needed to help the crop maintain acres in the face of so much competition.

“I think in Manitoba we’re going to be battling for acres compared to some of those competitive crops,” said Darcelle Graham, executive director of the National Sunflower Association of Canada at Carman, Man.

The vast majority of sunflowers is grown in Manitoba, with the rest divvied up between Saskatchewan, Alberta and Ontario.

Last year 68,000 acres of sunflowers were harvested in Canada, according to Statistics Canada.

It will be a challenge to maintain or improve on that number in 2017, Graham said.

“Soybeans had a good year last year,” she noted. “Corn is another crop that will probably be battling for some acres.”

Traditionally, confections make up the majority of sunflower varieties planted in Canada each year, but that trend shifted in 2016, with more acres going to oilseed varieties.

“I would hope that with these confection prices being up a little bit from past year that maybe they’ll be more evenly matched going into the 2017 growing season,” said Graham.

Contract prices for confections are in the “30-ish cent (per pound) range,” according to Graham with oilseeds drawing bids around 24 cents. Both prices are up from last year.

Slightly better demand is one reason for the increase, along with the residual effects of 2015.

“There was some carryover from that year,” she said. “I’m thinking we’re starting to eat through some of that carryover and so then we’re seeing the increase in contract pricing for 2017.”

While the Middle East has been a veritable cash cow for Canada when it comes to sunflower exports each year, recent turmoil has made the region a dicier proposition than normal.

As a result, many dealers are looking for new market opportunities, according to Graham.

“The Middle East is a traditional market but unfortunately with the unrest there, those markets are harder to obtain.”

Crop insurance deadlines for sunflower growers in Manitoba are on June 10 and 15. Graham said growers will likely want to keep an eye on those dates, with the spring expected to be a wet one.

“Sunflowers can handle the moisture,” she said. “But we don’t want them to be too stressed during germination.”

— Dave Sims writes for Commodity News Service Canada, a Winnipeg company specializing in grain and commodity market reporting.

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