Sunflower seed is primarily used for manufacturing sunflower oil and oilcake (what is left after the oil has been extracted). 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 oilcake, 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 "Websites & publications" heading); http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sunflower
International business environment
- The major global oilseed crop by some distance is soybean. Sunflower comes in third after soybeans and canola (rapeseed) (USDA, 2022).
- Russia, Ukraine, EU, Argentina and Turkey are the largest producers of sunflower seed (USDA, 2022). The EU and Turkey import the most sunflower seed, while Russia, Ukraine, Argentina, EU and Turkey are the largest exporters (USDA, 2022).
- Find circulars on the global environment by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) at https://apps.fas.usda.gov/psdonline/circulars/oilseeds.pdf
- www.sunflowernsa.com, website of the National Sunflower Association (USA)
- The SADC Secretariat and German Development Corporation‘s Profiling of the Regional Agro-Processing Value Chains in the SADC Region (March 2019) includes a look at sunflowers.
South Africa: imports and exports
See the monthly bulletins and Sunflower & Soybean Forum presentations on the South African Grain Information Service (SAGIS) website for updated information. Check also whether the publishing of the annual Sunflower Seed Market Value Chain Profile, which included an analysis of sunflower imports and exports, has resumed. These could be found on the Directorate Marketing pages on www.dalrrd.gov.za, website of the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD).
- South African imports are mainly from Botswana and Argentina (SAGIS, 2021).
- Exports have mostly gone to Eswatini (SAGIS, 2021). The SADC Free Trade Agreement facilitates flow of commodities among SADC countries at no tariff charges.
- With regard to exports, phytosanitary requirements and quality standards must be adhered to and a PPECB certificate must be obtained.
- The largest share of non-palm, vegetable oil imports by 2030 will comprise of sunflower oil, which implies opportunity for import replacement if the local production of sunflower can be expanded (BFAP, 2021).
Local business environment
Find the Grading Regulations for sunflower and requirements for grain exports at http://agbizgrain.co.za.
The Free State (56%) and North West Province (31%) are the major producers of sunflower seed, followed by Limpopo (11%) (DALRRD, 2022). The area planted with sunflower generally increases in drought-affected seasons owing to sunflower performing better in dry conditions and having a late planting window relative to maize.
Sales of sunflower seed are mostly to the domestic market with very little quantities destined for the export market. This can be due to the fact that our processing capacity in the country is big enough to accommodate most of sunflower seed produced locally.
Grain farmers switch from sunflower to maize easily, many planting both as a way of diversifying their farming operations. Advantages of the crop include being able to grow on marginal soils with little fertiliser, being a consistent crop under unfavourable weather conditions, and that historically, it could be planted “as a last resort”. Negatives include Sclerotina, falling over problems, bird damage but also that under ideal conditions, sunflower does not provide the same returns as crops like maize and soybeans.
There are five main levels that can be identified in the sunflower seed-to-sunflower oil value chain:
- Sunflower seed producers
- Crushers/expressers of seed (includes animal feed manufacturer)
- Refineries of crude oil (includes imported crude oil)
- Wholesalers and retailers
No statutory levies are applicable and the marketing of oilseeds is free from government intervention. The sunflower marketing season in South Africa commences on 1 March.
- Statistics (e.g. crop estimates, export/import etc) may be found on the websites of DALRRD, www.dalrrd.gov.za, Grain SA, www.grainsa.co.za, and SAGIS, www.sagis.org.za
- The annual Bureau for Food & Agricultural Policy (BFAP) Baseline comments on the performance of, and expectations for, sunflower and the other oilseed crops. See www.bfap.co.za.
- Find the Grading Regulations for sunflower and requirements for grain exports at http://agbizgrain.co.za.
Source: A Profile of the South African Sunflower Market Value Chain; Abstract of Agricultural Statistics 2021; BFAP study for GrainSA in 2015 – see www.grainsa.co.za/the-future-of-sunflower-production-in-south-africa
- Agbiz Grain http://agbizgrain.co.za/
- Grain SA www.grainsa.co.za
- Oil and Protein Seeds Development Trust www.opot.co.za
- Oilseed Advisory Committee www.opot.co.za
- SA Cereals & Oilseeds Trade Association (SACOTA) http://sacota.co.za/
- South African Grain Information Service (SAGIS) www.sagis.org.za
- SA Oil Processors Association (SAOPA) Tel: 082 533 0692 Fax: 086 627 7603 bakerjc [at] telkomsa.net
- Sunflower and Soybean Forum c/o SAGIS This is a forum where all parties with a direct interest in Sunflower production, storage, processing as well as the marketing of Sunflower products can discuss matters of interest.
Training and research
- ARC-Grain Crops (ARC-GC) www.arc.agric.za The ARC-GC presents courses on all aspects of Sunflower production. These courses vary from one to four days depending on the requirements specified by the client.
- Grain SA www.grainsa.co.za Grain SA has a Farmer Development Programme that is funded by the grain trusts – Maize, Sorghum, Winter Cereals and Oil and Protein Seeds Development Trust. Read more in the emerging farmer support chapter.
- Oil and Protein Seeds Development Trust www.opot.co.za
- Protein Research Foundation www.proteinresearch.net
- University of the Free State Department of Plant Sciences www.ufs.ac.za/plantsci
The Oil and Protein Seeds Development Trust provides funding for research on sunflowers, soybeans and groundnuts that is in the interest of producers, processors and consumers.
- Southern African Grain Laboratory (SAGL) www.sagl.co.za Find the “Sunflower” option on the website.
Find an extensive list on www.sagis.org.za – take the “List of Co-workers” and then “Sunflowers” menu options.
- AFGRI www.afgri.co.za
- Africa Palm Products www.africapalm.co.za
- Africa SunOil Refineries www.africasunoil.com
- AJ Oils www.ajoils.co.za
- Central Edible Oils (CEOCO) http://ceoco.co.za
- Dürsots Food Corporation www.dursots.com
- Elangeni Oil & Soaps www.elangenioil.co.za
- Epic Foods www.epic.co.za
- Epko Oil Seed Crushing Tel: 018 632 1604 A partnership between NWK and Louis Dreyfus Commodities
- FR Waring Holdings www.frwaring.co.za
- Nola Industries www.rclfoods.com/nola
- Pannar Seed www.pannar.com
- Rein Oil www.reinoil.co.za
- Sealake Industries www.sealake.co.za
- Senwes Ltd www.senwes.co.za
- Sime Darby Oils www.simedarbyoils.co.za
- Sunola Oil Mills www.goldenglo.co.za
- Willowton Oil & Cake Mills www.willowtongroup.com
- Wilmar Continental Edible Oils www.wilmarcontinental.com
Websites and publications
Visit the websites listed and already mentioned on this page.
- Useful information regarding sunflowers is available on the ARC website www.arc.agric.za. Printed guidelines on sunflower production, and other printed information are available at ARC-GC. Phone 018 299 6199 for the following two: (i) Sonneblomproduksie: ‘n Bestuurgids vir die Wenprodusent (ii) Sunflower Diseases and Pests / Sonneblomsiektes en -plae
- Call 012 842 4017 or visit www.arc.agric.za for the publication Agro-processing of Oil Seeds (Soy beans, sunflower) by ARC-Agricultural Engineering (ARC-AE).
- CD Roms from the ARC-PPR (Plant Protection Research) include: (i) Crop Pests, Vol. 4: Field Crops and Pastures Pastures (ii) Medically Important Spiders And Scorpions Of Southern Africa. Write to booksales [at] arc.agric.za or infopri [at] arc.agric.za.
- Read the Bureau for Food & Agricultural Policy (BFAP) document Sunflower Quality Report (2020) at www.bfap.co.za/sunflower-quality-report
- See whether the annual A Profile of the South African Sunflower Market Value Chain publication is being published again. Go to the DALRRD Directorate Marketing web pages at www.dalrrd.gov.za. Grower notes are also available on this website under “Resource centre”, namely Sunflower production guideline.
- Find the Pannar Sunflower Production Guide at www.pannar.com.
- Consult the AgriSETA Learner Guide Primary Agriculture “Harvesting agricultural crops“.
- Ma’Ali S. 2020, May 31. “How to improve the oil yield of a sunflower crop”. Farmer’s Weekly. Available at www.farmersweekly.co.za/crops/field-crops/how-to-improve-the-oil-yield-of-a-sunflower-crop/
- Reporter. 2018, March 15. “When to plant sunflower for optimal yield”. Farmer’s Weekly. Available at www.farmersweekly.co.za/crops/field-crops/plant-sunflower-optimal-yield
- Sihlobo, W. 2018, February 2. “Sunflower Seed Production Is Declining — This Is Why It’s A Problem”. Huffington Post. Available at www.huffingtonpost.co.za/wandile-sihlobo/sunflower-seed-production-is-declining-this-is-why-its-a-problem_a_23346207/
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