Bulgaria’s oilseed production in 2023/24 is expected to remain steady due to average forecasts for rapeseed and sunflowerseed yields, according to a report by the United Department of Agriculture (USDA)’s Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS).

In its Bulgaria: Oilseeds and Products Market Update, the USDA forecast production at 2.48M tonnes, almost unchanged from the 2022/23 estimate of 2.45M tonnes.

An unusually rainy and cooler spring had led to favourable growing conditions but had hampered sunflower planting and led to an increase in pest and disease issues, the USDA said.

Sunflower production was estimated at 2.2M tonnes, up from 2.15M tonnes in 2022/23. Rapeseed production was estimated at 275,000 tonnes, down from 299,000 tonnes the previous year.

Bulgaria was the leading European Union (EU) importer of sunflowerseeds from Ukraine in 2022/23, with a 38% share in total EU imports, according to the 6 July report.

However, sunflower imports from Ukraine had been banned in Bulgaria and four more Eastern European countries since May, with the ban in place until 15 September, the report said.

“This is expected to negatively impact crush[ing] as well as [the] dehulling seeds industry for the remainder of the market year.”

The growth in crushing had slowed down and, as of the end of May, the earlier growth in dehulling volume had turned into a decline of 7%, the report said.

“Despite market and farmers’ talk about significant stocks, accelerating exports, a ban on imports, and still active crush[ing], have resulted in 8% lower stocks at the end of May this year compared to a year ago,” the USDA said.

Rapeseed imports increased by 86% as of 16 June to 96,000 tonnes from 52,000 tonnes the previous season, with about half from non-EU origins.

Crushing has been impacted by lower supplies, with 2022/23 crushing activity 40% lower than the previous season, according to the report.

“Accelerated imports and depressed crush[ing] led to accumulation of more stocks,” the USDA said.

At the end of May, ending stocks totalled 54,000 tonnes, more than double the previous year’s volume.

Bulgaria is a net importer of soyabean products due to limited crushing capacity and very low local production, according to the report.

In the first half of the 2022/23 marketing year (October 2022-March 2023) soyabean meal imports dropped by 22% – from 69.9M to 54.4M tonnes – due to challenges in the domestic poultry, livestock and dairy industries, the report said.

Soyabean oil imports dropped by almost half – from 14.5M tonnes to 6.9M tonnes – in the same period due to higher import prices.