Wandile Sihlobo, Agbiz

We do not expect the sunflower seed planting process to show good progress this week (ending 16 November 2018) as soil moisture will not have improved from last week’s (ending 5 November 2018) levels. Also, the weather outlook for the next eight days shows drier weather conditions over most sunflower seed producing provinces, specifically North West and the western Free State. These two provinces account for 85% of the 575 000 hectares earmarked for sunflower seed planting in the 2018/2019 production season.

However, conditions could change in the week ending 30 November 2018, which promises widespread rainfall of between 20 and 60 millimetres over most parts of the country. However, the slow progress in sunflower seed planting thus far is not a major concern as the optimal planting window typically runs between November and early January each year. So, there is still time.

Having said that, it would be ideal if farmers in areas with better soil moisture could begin the planting as soon as possible so that the pollination period could occur early next year when there is still a good chance of higher rainfall. The South African Weather Service forecasts drier weather conditions between the end of January and March 2019, and this could coincide with pollination and negatively affect the crop.

With South Africa being a net importer of sunflower seed by-products, it is important to keep a close eye on the global sunflower seed developments.  To that end, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) forecasts the 2018/2019 global sunflower seed production at 50 million tons, up by 6% from the previous season. The key contributing countries to the expected large harvest are Ukraine, Russia, Argentina, China and Hungary. In the same season, the 2018/2019 global sunflower seed ending stock could be up by 15% from the previous season to 4 million tons, partly boosted by the expected large harvest.

Apart from the aforementioned weather developments, dam levels have improved significantly in the Western Cape province, thanks to the recent rainfall.-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.