Manitoba farmers “kicking tires” on sunflowers

CNSC — Sunflower acreage in Manitoba may be on the rise in 2014, as early pricing opportunities are favourable and farmers are showing an increased interest in alternative cropping options, according to an industry participant.

With prices for most grains and oilseeds grown across Western Canada under pressure by large supplies and logistical issues, specialty crops that sometimes fly under the radar, including sunflowers, may be getting more attention than normal ahead of spring planting.

“Whenever other commodity prices go down, the special crops can expect an increase in acres, or at least an increase in interest,” said Mike Durand of Nestibo Agra at Deloraine, noting that “there were a lot of tire kickers at Ag Days (in Brandon Jan. 22-23).”

New-crop pricing for oilseed sunflowers can be found at 20 to 22 cents per pound, with confectionary contracts offered at anywhere from 28 cents (for No. 2) to as high as 32 cents per pound, said Durand.

Sunflowers have followed the downward trend seen in most other commodities, but still “pencil out better for farmers than the majority of other crops,” said Durand.

Manitoba farmers grew 70,000 acres of sunflowers in 2013, which compares with 100,000 the previous year and the prior 5-year average of about 120,000. Adverse weather conditions in the spring limited some of the area, according to a report from the National Sunflower Association of Canada.

Nestibo Agra is also one of the few companies still contracting for buckwheat in Manitoba. Durand said interest in the crop was there, but only “a handful” of contracts will actually be filled this year, as the lack of local processing capacity together with increased riskiness in the international market were limiting the potential for buckwheat.

— Phil Franz-Warkentin writes for Commodity News Service Canada, a Winnipeg company specializing in grain and commodity market reporting.

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