A considerable fall in Ukraine’s sunflowerseed area this spring, along with lower yields due to a lack of inputs such as fertiliser, will result in a crop harvest of around 10M tonnes for the 2022/23 season, UkrAgroConsult’s ‘Black Sea Grain – Conflicting Supply and Demand’ webinar heard on 6 April.

Sergei Feofilov, director general of the Ukrainian consulting agency, told the webinar that the country’s suflowerseed region was situated in the eastern, northern and southern parts of the country where military activity was very high, following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on 24 February.

He stressed that it was very difficult to make accurate forecasts when the military situation was constantly changing but based on the situation as of 6 April, the 2022/23 sunflowerseed harvest was likely to total around 10M tonnes, against a record 16.5M tonnes in the previous marketing year.

However, Ukraine was now holding a record 6.5-7M tonnes of sunflowerseed stocks because the overwhelming majority of crushers had ceased operations and there were limited export routes out of the country.

Total sunflowerseed supply by the start of the new 2022/23 season in September could, therefore, end up at an average level of 15-16M tonnes.

In the next crucial four weeks for planting, Feofilov said lack of fuel was the most critical factor for farmers.

“The Ministry of Agriculture says seed supply is sufficient but fuel and fertiliser and supply is low.”

Farmers were also short of the revenue they normally gained from selling their grain and oilseed stocks in February/March to buy inputs.

Feofilov estimated that around 44,000ha of sunflowerseed, 11,000ha of rapeseed and 12,000ha of soyabeans would be sown this spring, resulting in 10.5M tonnes of sunflowerseed, 2.9M tonnes of soyabeans and 2.9M tonnes of rapeseed.

In terms of export logistics, Feofilov said mid- and small-sized exporters were the most promising partners as they could switch more quickly from shipping grain and oilseed stocks at Ukraine’s sea ports to railway and truck alternatives.

“We know a number of forwarders have already developed new routes through our Western borders but for small parcels. New logistic corridors are being developed and we expect that by early May, the logistics situation may improve.”

In 2020/21, Ukraine was the top global exporter of sunflower oil, accounting for 47% of exports, followed by Russia (29%), and Argentina, the European Union (EU) and Turkey (around 6-7% each).

From 96% of Ukraine’s grain, oilseeds and vegetable oil normally being exported by sea, the situation had now changed to 70% by rail and 30% via the only two ports currently operating – Reni and Izmail on the Danube River.

However, Feofilov said the capacity of the two Danube ports was small compared with the major ports of Odessa and Mykolayiv on the Black Sea and Mariupol on the Sea of Azov.

Other possible routes for grain, oilseed and vegetable oil exports were via railway to the ports of Gdynia and Gdansk in Poland and Constanta Port in Romania.

“Physically, it is possible to export via railways about 30,000 tonnes of grain or oilseeds per day.”

He said it was important to increases exports as domestic stocks were unusually high. This could create a problem if exports remained blocked and new crops arrived in July for storage.

The high stocks also meant that while international prices for wheat, oilseeds and vegetable oils were high, domestic prices were low.