Rumours about lifting of sunseed import ban into Bulgaria resume

23 Nov 2023 | Anna Platonova

The approach of December 1, when Bulgaria's ban on Ukrainian sunflower imports is expected to expire, has renewed arguments on both sides among traders and in local media, with Bulgarian crushers again voicing their frustration at being cut off from sunseed supplies, trade sources have told Agricensus.

The measures were imposed to shield the impact of cross-border flows on Bulgarian farmers, and was part of a wider pushback from EU countries bordering Ukraine at the flow of Ukrainian produce crossing into the bloc - and the alleged impact on domestic farmers' profitability.

Conversations with Bulgarian trade sources have highlighted that rumors over the possible lifting of the ban on sunflower imports into Bulgaria have resumed with renewed vigor, and are being actively discussed by both market participants and local media.

Bulgarian vegetable oil producers on Wednesday reiterated their demand for  return to the full liberalization of sunflower imports from Ukraine, according to local media. 

“We have been waiting two and a half months to see what happens. No one asked for our opinion before imposing the ban on imports from Ukraine, and now some conditions are being discussed again,” local media reports said, quoting the President of the Association of Oilseed Oil Producers, Yani Yanev.

“Sunflower imports should be liberalized,” Yanev was quoted as saying. 

However, at the same time, the position of the Bulgarian government remains ambiguous; on the one hand, they have stated that crushers will not be left without raw materials while also refusing to confirm that the ban would be lifted.

Trade sources said the government was keeping details under wraps in a bid to potentially contain any discontent from Bulgarian farmers.


However, the lack of clarity has left market participants confused and fed into the market rumours as the supply of Ukrainian sunflower and rapeseed is needed, particularly given a smaller local harvest this season.

The sunflower harvest in Bulgaria in the 2023/24 season is estimated at 1.6 million mt, which is almost 24% lower than last year, according to estimates from local market sources,

“Probably our crushers are already exhausted, given the very poor local harvest this year, and farmers who keep especially sunflower and wheat as hedges,” a local Bulgarian trader told Agricensus.

“Hopefully things will improve and the ban will be lifted. We are waiting,” one of the sunflower crushers told Agricensus.

At the same time, Bulgarian buyers are concerned about the new licensing regime in Ukraine for the export of sunflower, corn, and rapeseed, according to a plan previously agreed between Ukraine and the European Commission, as well as the desire of Ukrainian farmers to sell, given the high prices on the local Ukrainian market.

“There are imports from Ukraine, but it's painful. A lot of documentation with troubles has to be presented, you can import provided you declare it is for re-export of the by-products,” a Bulgaria-based broker said.

“For sure, if there are no export licenses from Ukraine and no customs troubles in Bulgaria, we will have a flow of sunflower,” the broker added.

“Is likely that the ban will be lifted, but there is a question of license which doesn't have applicability, no one has obtained a license so far,” added a source at a local crusher.

There was no official confirmation regarding the status of the ban or plans for its expiration at the time of publication.