Sunflower Oil Claims Record Share of Food Use

Sunflower oil will claim a record share of global food use in MY 2019/20, rising to 12 percent. The shift towards sunflower is driven by demand for higher-quality oils as global incomes rise, resulting in consistent production growth particularly in Ukraine and Russia. Since 2011, sunflower oil production has expanded faster than any other oil, averaging almost 7 percent growth per year. This trend accelerated in 2019/20 as palm and rapeseed oil production fell due to unfavorable weather and planting decisions affected by China trade concerns, respectively.

Attractive prices made sunflower oil a good “value for price” option in early 2020, resulting in elevated imports. Vegetable oil prices converged at the start of 2020, encouraging expanded purchases of typically higher-value oils including sunflowerseed. Sunflower oil remained cheaper than rapeseed oil from mid-February to early April, which incentivized purchases.

China imports of sunflower oil hit an all-time high for the month of April, reaching 251,000 tons, up 85 percent from the previous record in April 2016. Sunflower oil has claimed a higher share of China’s oil for food use over time and will account for roughly 6 percent of the country’s food oil use in MY 2019/20, double its share in MY 2012/13.

Despite this flurry of trade, elevated imports of sunflower oil are unlikely to continue into the summer. The Eurasian Economic Union’s decision in April 2020 to ban sunflowerseed exports limits input for external crushers and is expected to slow sunflower oil production. As the ban is causing prices to rise, the restricted supply and higher cost may turn importers to substitute oils. Global demand for all oils is expected to slow in response to the economic impact of the pandemic and increase in-home cooking, holding oil consumption in MY 2019/20 flat from last year. While still short of the 3 percent food consumption growth prior to the pandemic, oil consumption is forecast to recover in MY 2020/21, growing at 2 percent.

PROJECTION FOR 2020/21

Global 2020/21 oilseed production is forecast at 606 million tons, largely unchanged from May. Oilseed trade volumes are mostly unchanged. Global ending stocks are down slightly on higher consumption. Protein meal and oil production are up slightly on higher projected crush, primarily soybeans.

PROJECTION FOR 2019/20

Global oilseed production is unchanged at 575 million tons. Oilseed trade volume is 2 million tons higher at 179 million tons exported, mostly on larger soybean trade. Crush is nearly 1 million tons higher at 498 million tons. Ending stocks are steady at 115 million tons.

Protein meal production is pegged at 339 million tons, up marginally on larger crush volume. Meal consumption is projected higher at 337 million tons on increased demand and greater production. Oil production, trade, and consumption are up fractionally. The projected U.S. season-average farm price for soybeans is unchanged at $8.50 per bushel.

EXPORT PRICES

U.S. Gulf FOB soybean export bids in May averaged $335/ton, down $2 from April. Brazil Paranagua FOB averaged $338/ton, up $4 from last month while Argentina Up River FOB averaged $329/ton, up $2. Early June prices indicate a rising trend in U.S. prices relative to Brazil. Argentine farmers remain reluctant sellers in response to uncertainty over a possible devaluation of the peso.

Global soybean meal and oil demand remained weak for much of the month in response to COVID19’s impact. U.S. soybean meal export bids continued to fall in May, averaging $331/ton, down $18 from April. Brazil and Argentina export prices strengthened during the first half of May before weakening the rest of the month. Brazil Paranagua FOB averaged $314/ton, down $6 from April, and Argentina Up River FOB averaged $318/ton, down $10. Soybean oil prices rebounded as Argentina and Brazil average prices rose $6 and $8, respectively, to average $595/ton, while the United States average remained unchanged from April at $615/ton. Palm oil demand continued to decline as Malaysia and Indonesia reached its lowest price levels since October 2019. After mid-May, Malaysia and Indonesia palm oil prices rallied as global demand improved and economies began rebounding with a loosening of COVID-19 restrictions. Malaysia palm oil averaged $529/ton, down $32 from April and Indonesia averaged $520, down $39.

As of the week ending June 4, 2020, U.S. soybean accumulated exports (shipments) to China totaled 12.7 million tons and 23.5 million to the rest of the world. Outstanding sales have improved on recent sales to China but remain below 17/18 and 18/19 levels at 2.6 million tons to China and 4.9 million to the rest of the world. U.S. soybean export commitments (outstanding sales plus accumulated exports) to China are slightly higher than last year at 15.3 million tons but remain below historical levels on slow exports. Brazil exports to China remain high on a weak real and a record Brazilian soybean crop. Total commitments to the world lag behind last year, totaling 43.7 million tons as export commitments to markets outside China remain below 18/19 levels.