They’re one in every of Canada’s high feel-good crops — fields of vibrant yellow sunflowers have been delivering smiles for road-tripping households for numerous summers.
This yr, the nation’s sunflower enterprise could also be smiling, too.
Demand and costs for the particular crop are each trying good whereas the quantity of planted sunflower hectares has grown to its highest stage in years.
“It is a time the place the trade is booming,” mentioned Chuck Penner of LeftField Commodity Analysis in Winnipeg. “It is on the higher a part of the cycle proper now.”
Although in style throughout the nation, the majority — roughly 90 per cent — of sunflowers are grown in Manitoba. This summer season, the province is rising much more.
The quantity of sunflowers planted within the province this yr has climbed to about 36,400 hectares from roughly 25,500 in 2019, in response to the Manitoba Crop Alliance.
“It is a reasonably large soar for us — in all probability the largest acreage enhance we have seen in a very long time,” mentioned Darcelle Graham, the alliance’s chief working officer.
Graham mentioned numbers that prime have not been seen since 2015.
“So fairly thrilling from a sunflower world,” she mentioned.
Canadian growers plant each oilseed and confectionery sunflowers. For years, confectionery sunflowers — sometimes roasted and eaten as a snack — had been the most well-liked.
However Graham mentioned quite a lot of the development lately has been in oilseeds. A few of these seeds find yourself being crushed for oil, however a excessive proportion discover their means into birdseed.
There are any variety of market components that form demand and worth for sunflower seeds, like all commodity. A number one issue this yr is a reasonably tight provide of sunflowers in the USA.
Individuals shopping for chook meals
However an obvious rise within the recognition of birdwatching throughout the COVID-19 pandemic can also be offering a bit of little bit of a elevate in the market, too.
“I truly had a purchaser say to me the opposite day that by way of all of COVID, one factor individuals are shopping for extra of is chook meals,” Graham mentioned.
Ben Friesen, buying supervisor for sunflowers at Scoular Canada, which lately expanded its chook meals manufacturing facility in Winkler, Man., mentioned it has been an excellent yr.
Scoular’s confection sunflower enterprise is vital to the corporate, he mentioned, however the chook meals enterprise “actually picked up the tempo” and is even stronger this yr.
“With … lots of people being at residence, working from residence, I believe they’ve extra time to be feeding birds and watching them,” he mentioned.
“I believe it has in all probability elevated the manufacturing and the utilization of the chook meals.”
Tighter provides within the U.S.
Throughout the nation, LeftField’s Penner mentioned, the full quantity of sunflower acres will in all probability be near 100,000 — or 40,500 hectares — which he believes would be the highest quantity in years.
He mentioned sunflower seed costs have additionally improved, with confection seed varieties fetching 30 to 32 cents per pound and oilseed sunflower seeds getting nearer to 22 to 25 cents per pound.
“Which is, traditionally, a powerful worth,” Penner mentioned.
He pointed to common market dynamics for the elevated acreage and demand for Canadian sunflowers, noting sunflower seed provides within the U.S. have been tighter.
“That they had a smaller crop [the last two years], so pretty tight provide,” Penner mentioned. “So we have been exporting extra sunflowers into the U.S. and that was already occurring pre-COVID.”
Pandemic-related components could also be offering a “nudge” to costs as effectively, he mentioned.
For these within the enterprise, what counts is that Canada’s sunflower sector might need a yr that appears pretty much as good as its crops this summer season.
“They actually look stunning proper now,” Friesen mentioned.