Global supplies of sunflower oil have caused significant changes to the Australian industry in recent years, forcing growers to seek out and secure alternative markets.
Leading into the 2016 spring planting season AWB notified the Australian Sunflower Association of its intention to no longer provide a seed rebate and not offer hectare-based contracts to grow monounsaturated sunflowers for crushing.
The combination of lacklustre oilseed pricing since 2010 and the recent release of a new sunflower hybrid has led to a dramatic change to sunflower production in Australia.
As a result, production of confectionery and birdseed type sunflower has risen from around 5 per cent of production in 2015 to 26 per cent in 2015.
Another significant effect of the readjustment of the market is the potential for feed mills supplying the horse feed trade to face a shortage of black sunflower seeds.
One feed miller on the Darling Downs has expressed concern that their supply of black sunflower has ended and they will be relying on new season production to meet their requirements for the specialised rations for the equine industry.
Central Queensland grower Roland Hornick is a firm believer in the agronomic benefits of including sunflower in his crop rotation to spread the financial risk and the labour pressures at planting and harvest.
He has found the Nuseed hybrid Ausigold 62, a black monounsaturated oilseed type, to be the best performer on his farm and has established markets for the seed within the feedstock market.
Although the outlook was promising for spring planted sunflowers in central Queensland, Mr Hornick says the dry finish and heavy insect pressure has affected all spring crops in the region, including his 200 ha of sunflowers.
He is currently re-assessing his summer planting options with the possibility of planting a smaller area of sunflowers in mid to late February if there is sufficient summer rain to fill the profile.
Having not supplied into the oilseed market for about five years, Mr Hornick has established contacts with several buyers operating in the stockfeed market and is well aware of the differences in quality requirements between the two end uses.
Birdseed, horse feed and human consumption kernel markets all require large, ‘heavy’ seeds and buyers pay no premium for oil content.
There is also a major emphasis on undamaged seed, particularly for the dehulling processors where any damaged seeds are rejected.