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); 

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).

Further reference:


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, 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

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
  • Consumers

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.

Further reference:

  1. Statistics (e.g. crop estimates, export/import etc) may be found on the websites of DALRRD,, Grain SA,, and SAGIS,
  2. The annual Bureau for Food & Agricultural Policy (BFAP) Baseline comments on the performance of, and expectations for, sunflower and the other oilseed crops. See
  3. Find the Grading Regulations for sunflower and requirements for grain exports at


Source: A Profile of the South African Sunflower Market Value Chain; Abstract of Agricultural Statistics 2021; BFAP study for GrainSA in 2015 – see

The Southern African Grain Laboratory

For the newcomer

Find the Sunflower production guideline under “Resource centre” at Other grower guides are listed under “Websites & publications“.

National strategy and government contact

Find information about Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD) under “Branches” at

Role players



  • Agbiz Grain
  • Grain SA
  • Oil and Protein Seeds Development Trust
  • Oilseed Advisory Committee
  • SA Cereals & Oilseeds Trade Association (SACOTA)
  • South African Grain Information Service (SAGIS)
  • SA Oil Processors Association (SAOPA) Tel: 082 533 0692 Fax: 086 627 7603 bakerjc [at]
  • 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) 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 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
  • Protein Research Foundation
  • University of the Free State Department of Plant Sciences

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) Find the “Sunflower” option on the website.


Companies involved

Find an extensive list on – take the “List of Co-workers” and then “Sunflowers” menu options.



Websites and publications

Visit the websites listed and already mentioned on this page.

  • Useful information regarding sunflowers is available on the ARC website 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 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] or infopri [at]
  • Read the Bureau for Food & Agricultural Policy (BFAP) document Sunflower Quality Report (2020) at
  • 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 Grower notes are also available on this website under “Resource centre”, namely Sunflower production guideline.
  • Find the Pannar Sunflower Production Guide at 
  • Consult the AgriSETA Learner Guide Primary Agriculture “Harvesting agricultural crops“.


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