Late sunflower harvest

Nearly 19,5 % of the 2012 sunflower harvest has been delivered so far, according to the latest statistics from the SA Grain Information Service (SAGIS).

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This is lower than the long-term average of 25,5% delivered at the corresponding time each year and calculated since 2008. Nico Hawkins, CEO of SAGIS, ascribed it to the fact that many producers planted considerably later than usual. He said sunflower is mainly produced in North West and Free State and the sporadic rains and ensuing drought in the 2011/2012 production season meant that many producers had to plant later than usual.

The drought also caused a drop in hectares planted to sunflower, according to Grain SA economist Petru Fourie. “In 2010/2011 some 642 700ha were planted, which resulted in a harvest of 860 000t. In the 2011/2012 production season, 453 350ha were planted with an expected harvest of 527 110t. The sunflower price on 7 June this year was R4 681/t compared to R4 157/t last year,” she said. South Africa is reasonably self-sufficient and imports very little sunflower.

Hawkins said that most of the imported sunflower seeds are destined for the pet food industry; birds in particular. Mainly white sunflower seed varieties are imported. “The 10-year average for sunflower imports is about 18 300t. The most that we imported since 1998 was 69 000t in 2009. This year we’ve only imported 500t so far. The local sunflower production is mainly used for human consumption in the form of sunflower oil,” he said.

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The sunflower seedcake is used in the animal feed market and there is a limited demand for the seedcake because of its indigestibility for mono-gastric animals such as chickens and pigs, said Hawkins. Sunflower producer John Rankin from Lichtenburg said this year’s yield in the area where he farms is about a half ton lower than last year’s because of the drought.

“We’ve harvested 1,7t/ha in 2011 compared with about 1,3t/ha now. This is not bad, bearing in mind the sporadic rains and that many farmers planted so late. The current good sunflower price is an added bonus, given that the input costs hereabouts amount to about R4 800/ha,” he said.