European sources suggest removal of sunflower ban from Sept 15

7 Sep 2023 | Anna Platonova

The ban on imports of sunflower seeds from Ukraine may be removed from September 15, European market sources suggest. Some crushers, particularly in Bulgaria, are near to suspending operations because of a lack of supply amid worsening prospects for the EU sunflower crop in the 2023/24 marketing season.

According to sources in Bulgaria, it is very likely that the ban on the import of certain goods from Ukraine will be removed.

At the same time, other local sources suggested that the ban would be removed by some countries and for some goods. The sources did not provide specifics.

Bulgarian media reported that the Association of Producers of Vegetable Oils and Oil Products decried a request from the country's Minister of Agriculture, Kiril Vatev, to the European Commission to extend the ban on imports of Ukrainian sunflower until the end of the year.

According to local media, representatives of the Association, which lobbies for the interests of crushers, accused the country of oppressing one sector to benefit another, thereby distorting the market.

"Prices continued to fall even after a ban was imposed on the import of Ukrainian sunflower seeds to five Eastern European countries," Yani Yanev, chairman of the processors' association, said during a press conference, local media reported.

Relations between Bulgarian farmers and crushers are worsening because of declining 2023/24 harvest estimates and higher stocks that have failed to offset the shortage of Ukrainian sunflowers.

To date, Bulgarian companies estimate the sunflower harvest in Bulgaria at 1.7 million-1.8 million mt and the harvest in Romania at 2.3 million mt. These figures are lower than August expectations by 17% and 11.5% respectively.

Market sources estimate that the higher sunflower stocks in both countries this year do not compensate for sunflower shortages.

Sunflower stocks in Romania and Bulgaria at the beginning of September exceeded those of the previous year by an average of 30%.

Market participants estimated sunflower stocks in Bulgaria at the start of September at 200,000-300,000 mt, while official estimates are at 600,000 mt.

Estimates of sunflower residues in Romania in early September do not exceed 300,000 mt.

Farmers are taking a wait-and-see position, since they consider prevailing prices in the market to be lower than cost.

Market participants believe that the likelihood of the ban being canceled is increasing, taking into account the decline in sunflower crops in Bulgaria and Romania due to drought and lack of supply.