There is still limited activity in the sunflower fields due to lower soil moisture on the back of drier weather conditions in the past couple of weeks. However, the next two weeks could bring positive change as weather charts currently show prospects of 20 to 90 millimetres of rainfall over the sunflower seed growing areas. Some areas have already started receiving showers, and this could intensify in the next few days.

While the forecast rainfall is a positive development for the 2018/2019 production season, it also means that sunflower seed planting could experience a further two weeks’ delay due to wet conditions, but planting should begin as soon as the weather clears.

This is not a main concern in the market as there is still sufficient time for sunflower seed planting. South Africa’s sunflower seed optimal planting window will only close at the beginning of January 2019 in the main sunflower seed producing provinces such as the Free State and North West. To reiterate a point made yesterday (19 November 2018), our recommendations for early plantings in areas that had good soil moisture was due to expectations of drier weather conditions between the end of January and March 2019. This period could coincide with pollination, which requires moisture. Therefore, in the event of drier weather conditions, yields could be negatively affected.

Worth noting is that during the drier production seasons of 2014/2015 and 2015/2016, South Africa’s sunflower seed yields averaged 1,10 tons per hectare. If we assume a yield of this size on intended area plantings of 575 000 hectares, South Africa’s 2018/2019 sunflower seed production could amount to 632 500 tons.

But, this is possibly a worst case scenario, as we don’t believe that the weather conditions could be as dry as the 2015/2016 period. There are expectations of a weak El Niño. Therefore, if we assume that the 2018/2019 sunflower seed yields could amount to 1,28 tons per hectare, a five-year average yield, on an area plantings of 575 000 hectares, then production could amount to 736 000 tons, down by 14% from the previous season. –Wandile Sihlobo

Wandile Sihlobo, head of economic and agribusiness intelligence at Agbiz, shares highlights in his update on agricultural commodity markets. Click here for the full report on agri markets for the major commodities.

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