Table of Contents


Also see the general "Grains & Oilseeds" chapter


1. Overview

  • Sunflower seed is primarily used for manufacturing sunflower oil and oilcake. After the hull is removed the seed can be consumed or used for different oil production. Most of the seed produced is marketed locally to expressers, animal feed and for seed.
  • The greatest importance of sunflower production is the extraction of oil from the seed.
  • Sunflower oil is used on a daily basis in households, restaurants and various food industries. Sunflower is the basic raw material for the preparation of margarine and spreads, used daily by millions of people.
  • Sunflower oil can also be converted to diesel for use in diesel engines as biofuel.
  • The sunflower seed also produces oil cake, which is widely used for animal feeds (as sunflower oilcake meal) because of its high protein content. Sunflower "whole seed" (fruit) is sold as a snack food, after roasting in ovens, with or without salt added. Sunflowers can be used to make a peanut butter alternative, sunbutter. It can also be mixed with rye flour to make bread (in Germany this is called Sonnenblumenkernbrot - literally: sunflower whole seed bread). It is also sold as food for birds and can be used directly in cooking and salads.
  • Sunflowers also produce latex and are the subject of experiments to improve their suitability as an alternative crop for producing hypoallergenic rubber.
Source: A Profile of the South African Sunflower Market Value Chain (see heading 7); 


2. International business environment

Find circulars on the global environment by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) at

  • The major global oilseed crop by some distance is soybean. Sunflower comes in third after canola (rapeseed) (USDA, 2017).
  • Ukraine, Russian Federation, EU, Argentina and Turkey are the top producers of sunflower (USDA, 2017).
  • The top exporters are Ukraine, Russia, Argentina, Turkey and the EU.
  • The EU and Turkey are the main importers of sunflower (USDA, 2017).
  • South Africa is not a significant role player in the production and trade of oilseeds in the international market. It contributed 850 thousand tons of the global 46.1 million in 2017 (BFAP, 2017), some 2% to the sunflower seed produced in the world.

South Africa: imports and exports

See the monthly bulletin on the South African Grain Information Service (SAGIS) website for updated information. See also the Sunflower Seed Market Value Chain Profile by the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) which analyses South African imports and exports.

  • Major exporters of sunflower seed to South Africa are Romania, Botswana, Bulgaria and Argentina (DAFF, 2017). It makes sense to import from SADC countries like Botswana and Malawi because of the SADC Free Trade Agreement which facilitates flow of commodities among SADC countries at no tariff charges.
  • The major importers of sunflower seed originating from South Africa are Sudan, Malawi, Namibia, Swaziland, Thailand and Botswana (DAFF, 2017).
  • Because of the uncharacteristic sunflower surplus in 2017, net exports were expected with sunflower prices closer to export parity. After this, for the country to return to being a net importer is expected with prices varying between import and export parity (BFAP, 2017). South Africa is a net exporter of sunflower oil though, even if it is a net importer of vegetable oils overall. Vegetable oils in South Africa are refined for purposes of human consumption (ABSA, 2016).
  • With regard to exports, phytosanitary requirements and quality standards must be adhered to and a PPECB certificate must be obtained. The import tariff for sunflower seed is 9.4% of the FOB price.