Black Sea sunflower harvest to bounce back after weather-related losses last year

Sunflower harvest out of the Black Sea region could rise 6 million tonnes to 42 million tonnes this year, with most coming from Ukraine and Russia.

By Anna Platonova, editor for Fastmarkets AgriCensus

Analytical agencies across the Black Sea are expecting sunflower production across the region to bounce back after last year’s weather-related losses, with output expected to increase by more than 6 million tonnes, or over 16% year-on-year, mostly from the big producing nations.

Weather conditions in the Black Sea region have allowed trade sources to expect a large sunflower harvest in comparison with the last year that could total more than 41-42 million tonnes.

Of that total, more than 32 million tonnes is expected to come from Ukraine and Russia. This is despite the hot, dry conditions that Russia is facing, making the harvest outlook there harder to predict.

The chart below shows global sunflower production from 2016 to 2021, with forecasts for the year ahead. The big players, Ukraine, Russia and the EU remain the top three producing areas.

World sunflower production chart

According to analytical agencies of Ukraine, the sunflower harvest in the current season is expected to increase to between 16.5-17.5 million tonnes due to a rise in acreage and an expected improvement in yield.

“The weather this year is favorable for sunflower and I think Ukraine will harvest at least 16.5 million tonnes of sunflower,” an agronomist in the Odesa region told Fastmarkets AgriCensus.

For Russia, analysts predict sunflower harvest in the range of 15.2-16.7 million tonnes, although the outlook is harder to call as the country once again wilts under hot, dry conditions.

The minimum threshold of the estimate is based on any decrease in yields due to dry weather, while the upper end of the scale is justified by an increase in cultivated areas of 13% to 9.64 million hectares, according to Russian statistical agency Rosstat.

In a number of regions of Russia, dry and hot weather persists, while the rains that took place in some southern and central regions have not significantly affected the condition of sunflowers.

“The increase in acreage will be offset by low yields due to drought. At the same time, in spite of the weather, forecasts of analytical agencies indicate harvests from 15.3 million tonnes to 16.7 million tonnes,” one trader told Fastmarkets AgriCensus.

That means the two giants of global sunflower production could be heading in opposite directions.

“I do not see great risks of reduced sunflower harvest in Ukraine below 17 million tonnes, while in Russia the risks are quite high. This is due to the increase of sowing area of 1.6 million hectares under sunflower in Russia this season,” Sergiy Repetskiy, managing partner at brokerage Sunstone Brokers SA told Fastmarkets AgriCensus.

“The big question is whether Russian farmers will be able to harvest all the sunflower before the first snow, given the sharp increase in late planting. According to my estimates, up to 600,000 hectares will not be harvested on time, resulting in a reduced harvest,” Repetskiy warned.

Black Sea
An increase is also expected in Bulgaria and Romania, which, according to experts’ expectations, will collectively harvest a total of 5.3 million tonnes, 30% more than last year.

“The weather is perfect for harvesting, as it is 30-33 degrees in the whole of Bulgaria, as well as Romania. Harvesting ‘scorched fields’ is slowly starting in central and southern Bulgaria, but it is not indicative. The combined harvest for both Bulgaria and Romania is expected to increase by almost 30% compared to last year to 2-2.1 million tonnes in Bulgaria and up to 3 million tonnes in Romania,” Vassil Vassilev, head broker at AgriVia told Fastmarkets AgriCensus.

According to USDA forecasts, Turkey is expected to have one of its biggest sunflower harvests of the past four years, amounting to 1.8 million tonnes, which is 17% higher than last year.

“Our expectations are for a harvest of at least 1.7 million tonnes, which is almost 20% higher than last year,” added the broker.

Sunflower harvesting in dry areas is expected to begin after August 25, while mass harvesting is planned for September.

This article, by Anna Platonova, was first published to on Tuesday August 17.

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