The war situation in Ukraine will impact European supplies of sunflower oil, according to trade body FEDIOL, which represents the interests of the vegetable oil and protein meal industry in the European Union (EU).

Approximately 200,000 tonnes/month of sunflower oil had stopped being shipped to European ports due to the conflict, the trade body said.

EU refineries of vegetable oils source between 35% and 45% of the sunflower oil consumed in the EU from Ukraine, according to the 4 March statement.

“[With] Ukraine being the major exporter of sunflower oil, these volumes are difficult, and could be impossible, to replace on short notice, as other players on the world market face a similar shortfall in their supply,” the statement said.

A rapid assessment had showed that the substantial reduction of sunflower oil availability would be felt rapidly, FEDIOL said, with available stocks in the EU estimated to last 4-6 weeks.

“Beyond that period, it is likely that lack of availability of crude sunflower oil and limited alternatives will lead to a shortfall of refined/bottled sunflower oil on the European market, and that this will be felt up to the consumer level,” the trade association said.

FEDIOL said its members were already anticipating and trying to mitigate adverse impacts on the food sector and had been redirecting the limited volumes of sunflower oil destined to biodiesel back to the food market.

“There is no immediate solution to this disruption in sunflower oil and it is obviously unclear if and how trade will be able to resume,” FEDIOL said.

“Depending on the market, alternative vegetable oils can to some extent come into play, such as rapeseed oil, soyabean oil and tropical oils.”

FEDIOL said the EU’s consumption of approximately 435,000 tonnes/month refined sunflower oil was based on domestic production of sunflower seeds, especially in southern and central EU and on imports of primarily Ukrainian crude sunflower oil.

The EU produces both high-oleic and linoleic sunflower varieties, which are crushed, refined and used as refined sunflower oil for deep-frying (high-oleic) and for bottled oils (linoleic), according to FEDIOL, with imports from Ukraine representing essentially crude sunflower oil of linoleic varieties, which after refining are sold in bottled oils.

Meanwhile, Reuters reported on 6 March that Ukraine had introduced export licenses for key agricultural commodities, with the country’s state-run railway saying it would move those exports by rail.

Ukraine would require traders to obtain export licenses for wheat, corn and sunflower oil, among other agricultural commodities, Interfax Ukraine news agency quoted a government resolution as saying.

Ukraine normally exported its grain, vegetable oils and other food products by ship, but the country’s Black Sea ports had been closed because of Russia’s invasion.

Ukrainian Railways said it was ready to organise “agricultural products delivery by rail urgently” and that it could transport grain to borders with Romania, Hungary, Slovakia and Poland, from where it could be delivered to ports and logistics hubs of European countries, the Reuters report said.