Bulgarian Sunseed Crushers Take Advantage of Ukrainian Imports
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Despite softening Sunflower prices in recent months, most farmers in Bulgaria still prefer to plant Sunflower as a “safer” crop during possible summer droughts due to lower production costs than corn. In 2023, Sunflower is the only crop allowed to be planted on fallow land by the MinAg. It is still a difficult decision for producers due to current prices trending lower, high stocks in the country, abundant supplies in the Black Sea region, and reports from potential high crops in MY2023/24 in Ukraine. Provided that the weather cooperates, Post’s early projection for production is at 2.1 MMT.
The latest MinAg/Eurostat official data confirmed Sunflower production at 2.1 MMT at standard moisture content. The crop was 3.7 percent higher than in MY2021/22 due to a 9.3 percent higher area harvested, while the average yields were impacted by adverse summer weather and declined to 2.27 MT/HA or by 5 percent compared to 2.39 MT/HA in MY2021/22. Farm-gate Sunflower seed prices have softened after their peaks in the summer of 2022. Since September 2022, they have declined below the levels in MY2021/22.
Farmers, pressured by higher production costs, preferred to harvest and hold onto Sunflower seed stocks, expecting more attractive prices. Domestic crushers were buying small quantities, while exports were non-existent. Many blamed skyrocketing price-competitive imports of Ukrainian Sunflower as the main reason for depressed prices.
Imports of Sunflower in the current MY throughout the end of February were reported at 584,000 MT or more than double higher than in the same period in MY2021/22. The EU Customs data shows even higher imports from non-EU origins at 757,000 MT (Note: EU Customs data shows imports since July 1, and the MinAg data shows imports since September 1). According to these statistics, Bulgaria accounted for 40 percent of total Sunflower imports in the EU as of February 28, 2023. Imports from Ukraine were driven by price, quality competitiveness, and dynamic domestic crush demand.
Local crushers have taken advantage of Ukrainian imports, and the crush increased, along with processed product exports. As of the end of February, the MinAg reported a 31 percent higher crush. Dehulling of Sunflowers also increased by 16 percent compared to a year ago.
Exports have been sluggish due to local prices exceeding the Black Sea levels and farmers holding stocks. Still, exports as of the end of February were reported by the MinAg at 146,000 MT compared to 75,000 MT a year ago, or 95 percent higher than a year ago, due to more active exports in the last two months. It is believed that some of these exports are transshipments of Ukrainian Sunflowers. About 80 percent of exports were destined for non-EU markets (118,000 MT). This ranks Bulgaria as a leading EU exporter with a 45 percent share of total EU exports.
The main export markets in the EU are the Netherlands, Germany, Spain, and outside the EU – China, the United States, and the United Kingdom. According to AgFlow data, Bulgaria exported 37,505 tons of Sunseeds to Spain in July 2023, followed by France (19,106 tons), the Netherlands (18,567 tons), and Turkey (11,800 tons).
Sunflower Meal in Bulgaria
Due to a steady and expanding crush, Bulgaria became a net exporter of processed Sunflower products. Sunflower Meal exports in MY2022/23 (September-November) stood at 257,497 MT, 90 percent more than in MY2021/22 (135,839 MT). The main markets were China (184,150 MT), Greece, the Netherlands, and Romania. As of the end of February, Bulgarian Sunflower Meal exports exceeded 400,000 MT and accounted for 66 percent of total EU exports.
Other sources: USDA
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