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Jonathan Knutson, Forum News Service, Published October 31 2013

Argentina drought, Dakota blizzard affect sunflower prices

Planting conditions in Argentina likely will have more impact on U.S. sunflower prices than the recent blizzard that hammered key sunflower-growing areas of the western Dakotas, a crop marketing expert says.

“In my view, that [South American planting conditions] will have larger implications for sunflower prices than the snows here,” says Frayne Olson, crops economist and marketing specialist with the North Dakota State University Extension Service.

The early October blizzard dumped heavy snows on northwest South Dakota and southwest North Dakota, areas in which sunflowers are popular. Producers there probably will be unable to combine parts of some fields but apparently will be able to harvest most of their sunflowers, Olson and others say.

“My understanding is, there are areas that were hit pretty hard. But in general, it wasn’t as damaging as some might expect,” Olson says.

“Traders are watching it (the sunflower harvest). They’re concerned about it. But there’s a wait-and-see attitude. I think they’re going to wait to see what the final yields are and how many of these acres get harvested,” he says.

The bigger concern is planting progress in Argentina, a leading sunflower producer. Argentina’s farm ministry has declared an agricultural emergency in several provinces hit by drought.

Some Argentine acres originally planned for sunflowers may be switched to soybeans, which can be planted later than sunflowers, or not planted at all, according to published reports.

Higher prices ahead?

John Sandbakken, executive director of the National Sunflower Association in Mandan, N.D., also points to wet weather in the Ukraine, a top sunflower producer. The moisture has delayed harvest and reduced yields of what’s still expected to be a good sunflower crop.

Given weather problems elsewhere in the world, Sandbakken is optimistic that U.S. sunflower prices will fare well.

Olson notes that most U.S. sunflowers are consumed domestically. Even so, world markets affect U.S. sunflower prices, he says.

But the potential for

higher sunflower prices is limited by an outstanding canola crop in Canada, the world’s leading canola producer and exporter, he says.

Canola and sunflower oil compete with each other, reducing potential price gains for sunflowers, Olson says.

Nov. 8 reports

Normally, the U.S. Department of Agriculture would have issued world supply-and-demand estimates for sunflowers and other crops in the middle of October. That didn’t happen this year because of the federal government shutdown.

Now, USDA will release reports on U.S. crop production and global supply-and-demand estimates on Nov. 8, giving a clearer picture of sunflower production.