Sunflower Oil Prices Explained
Sunflower oil prices remained elevated across the market as the global supply chain suffered the present war in Ukraine ( the biggest exporter of this commodity ).
Additionally, the unavailability of high-quality sunflower seeds and the high cost of palm oil exports will further fuel its fluctuating prices. Furthermore, Russia ( the second-largest sunflower oil producer ) announced zero export duty on sunflower oil starting January 1, 2024.
Why are sunflower oil prices fluctuating?
Since 2022, the international market saw its price volatility mainly because of the ongoing war between Ukraine and Russia but several factors also play into its surging price. Here are some:
1. Russia-Ukraine War
Russia and Ukraine are the top sunflower oil producers in the world. For 10 years, Ukraine exported 45%-55% of sunflower oil globally and Russia had a share of 15%-20% of the production until the conflict began.
As a result, the current war between these countries affected the global vegetable oil market. Sunflower oil prices skyrocketed more than 40% since the day of the invasion which caused other vegetable oil prices to soar.
Experts believe that this price trend will continue for the next two years or even longer depending on the two countries’ war agreement.
2. Climate Change
Extreme weather conditions such as heat waves, heavy downpours, tropical cyclones, and floods all directly have a hand in sunflower oil production which ultimately controls its price.
Ukraine’s summer drought in 2021 affected 94% of its sunflower seed production. While its production increased in the late quarter of 2023, it isn’t enough to cover the rising demand for this commodity, leading to a spike in sunflower oil prices.
3. Competition from Other Vegetable Oils
Although 2/3 of oil production accounts for sunflower, its price is still vulnerable to other vegetable oils.
Soybean oil, canola oil, and palm oil are top competitors of sunflower oil in the market. Thus, any price changes in these oils can impact their demand and price.
As part of sustainable development goals, some countries are pushing biofuels as a substitute for fossil fuels.
According to Rabobank, 15% of vegetable oil demand comes from biofuel. However, the shortage of sunflower oil production led to a tighter need to fill in the gap. Thus, this created a domino effect on other vegetable oils and their prices.
Which variables impact the price of sunflower oil?
- Russia-Ukraine War
- Climate Change
- Competition from other Vegetable Oils
- Exchange Rates
- Consumer Preferences and Trends
Where does sunflower oil come from?
Sunflower oil ranks fifth in production among edible vegetable oils and it is extracted from sunflower seeds.
Historical records show that sunflowers originated from the South American culture, preferably the Mayans. Additionally, they considered it a primary source of food. The Mayans believed it had some medicinal properties and was used as a snake bite remedy.
Furthermore, sunflower cultivation spread in Europe in the 16th century thanks to the European explorers who brought sunflower seeds to the West. The Russians began growing sunflower as a commercial crop in the early 1880s which makes them the top exporters until today.
Sunflower Oil Processing
1. Cleaning the Seed
The harvested sunflower seeds are passed over magnets to remove any metal traces. Additionally, other impurities are removed by cleaning the sieve.
Then, the outer covering (hulls) of the sunflower seeds are removed to obtain pure seeds. This process is called shelling.
3. Grinding the Seeds
Next, the de-hulled seeds are ground to break down the seed tissue and increase the surface area for oil extraction.
To extract the oil, the sunflower seeds are pressed using an oil-pressing machine.
5. Extraction of the Additional Oil
After pressing, the remaining seed material (cake) still contains a significant amount of oil. This oil is extracted using a solvent, typically hexane.
6. Removal of Solvent Traces
The oil-solvent mixture is heated to evaporate and recover the solvent.
7. Oil Refining and Processing
The sunflower oil is further refined to remove impurities, color, and odor, to achieve a clear, light, and high-quality oil.
8. Packing the Sunflower Oil
Finally, the refined oil is packed and ready for sale.
The cost of sunflower oil extraction machines can vary depending on the capacity and efficiency of the machine.
Presently, the top 5 sunflower oil-producing countries are Ukraine, Russia, Argentina, Turkey, and France. The United States is also a significant sunflower oil producer. In 2021, its sunflower oil production reached 417 million pounds.
What is the future price of sunflower oil?
These are the top price movers of sunflower oil in 2030:
Supply and demand: The global supply and demand for sunflower oil will be the biggest factor influencing sunflower oil prices in 2030. Furthermore, the rising consumption of sunflower oil in Europe is another price factor of this commodity.
Crude oil prices: Sunflower oil prices move along with crude oil prices as sunflower oil is often used as a substitute for diesel fuel. The seed’s capacity to produce nearly 600 pounds of oil per acre drives the inclination toward sunflower seeds for biofuel production.
Overall, the estimated sunflower oil price in 2030 will be $920.75 per ton.