Sunflower Oil Guide

Published Aug 30, 2021
HS Code: 151211 - Vegetable oils; sunflower seed or safflower oil and their fractions, crude, not chemically modified
HS Code: 0268 - Sunflower-seed oil, crude
Top Exporter
UA flagUkraine
Top Importer
IN flagIndia
Export Value
1Y +4.44%
Import Value
1Y +24.79%

Production Supply Chain

What is the production process for refined sunflower oil?

Refined sunflower oil goes through a long process of purification which consists of the following stages: mechanical cleaning, hydration, neutralization, bleaching, freezing, deodorization, and nitriding. The production process includes the following steps: seed cleaning, drying, destruction of the skin of the seeds and separation from the nucleus, and grinding. There are two methods by which oil can be obtained from sunflower seeds.

Hard Pressing method: This method is conducted by exerting high pressure on the seeds to produce oil. It is considered to be the more environmentally-friendly way, although the yield of the oil is smaller at approximately 25%.

Extraction method: The production of sunflower oil by this method involves the use of organic solvents and is carried out via special apparatuses known as extractors. The extraction method for oil extraction is more economical, as this method allows the extraction of oil from raw materials up to 99%.

What are the price determinants for sunflower oil?

Several factors influence the price of vegetable oils such as climatic conditions, demand for biofuels, increased demand due to income growth and population growth, and health concerns driving the substitution of animal fats for vegetable oils and fats. The impact of energy prices on oilseed prices is an old food versus fuel debate. As petroleum prices increase, the demand for substitute products such as biofuel also increases. And as the demand for biofuel increases, the demand for biofuel feedstocks also increases, leading to higher prices for vegetable oils that serve as feedstock for biofuels such as sunflower oil and palm oil. Prices are also determined by domestic demand and supply as well as export prices.

Trade Overview

Which country is the biggest sunflower oil exporter in the world?

Ukraine is the No. 1 exporter of sunflower oil, accounting for 56% of world exports in volume for 2019/2020 MY. Ukraine's leading position in the world market of sunflower oil production is provided by the availability of resources such as ample land, cheap labor, and energy. In addition, the unique, natural, and climatic conditions of Ukraine allow the growth of sunflowers in almost all of its territories, which in turn allows sunflower oil producers to harvest high-quality raw materials.

Approximately 10% of the total export volume of sunflower oil is refined oil, while the other 90% is made up of crude sunflower oil. Around 90% of the produced volume is exported to foreign markets. Currently, sunflower oil production is one of the most highly profitable types of business in Ukraine. The return rate on investment in processing plants is approximately 179%. The top five producers of refined sunflower oil are located in Kropyvnytskyi (2 plants), Dnipropetrovsk, Odessa, and Lviv.

The main production of refined and unrefined sunflower oil is provided by the ten largest extraction plants. The four plants are located in the central part of the country: Zhytomyr, Vinnytsia (2 plants), and Kropyvnytskyi regions. The rest of the plants are concentrated in the Southern regions, which give them logistical proximity to seaports: Zaporizhzhia (2 plants), Mykolaiv (2 factories), and Odessa (2 plants).

What are the main import markets of sunflower oil?

*While this graph represents the main importers of “crude” sunflower oil, it is considered to be a more accurate indicator of the major importing countries of sunflower oil. This is because while China and India are the leading importers of crude sunflower oil, in terms of HS Code 15129 which does not include crude sunflower oil, they do not take up a big percentage. Imports of refined sunflower oil, in fact, are widely split between multiple countries, with top importer Belgium taking up only 7.1% of the worldwide import share.


According to the FAO, the Vegetable Oil Price Index averaged at 98.7 points in August 2020, an increase of 5.5 points (5.9%) compared to July, the highest since January. While the three-month-long growth is mostly attributed to palm oil, it is also considered to be affected by the rise in prices of soybean, rapeseed, and sunflower oil. However, unlike rapeseed oil for which prices are high due to a decline in supply, sunflower oil prices are driven upward by high demand from China despite lower production and oil content for the products this season from the Black Sea.


According to the Solvent Extractors’ Association of India (SEA), in terms of crude sunflower oil, India’s imports of sunflower oil rose by 4% to 208.7K MT. Within India, sunflower oil imports increased by 13% during the first half of this marketing year (November 2019 to April 2020) while palm oil imports decreased by 29%. While the share of palm oil in imports was still high, there was a 64% reduction compared to the same period the previous year. This is because the demand for palm oil, which is predominantly consumed in the hospitality sector, such as restaurants and cafes, faltered during the pandemic and “soft oil” alternatives, considered to be “healthier” such as sunflower and soybean oil, were given preference for household consumption. 

What are the main importing countries for Russian sunflower oil (HS 151211&HS 151219)?



The amount exported of Russian Sunflower Oil

(January 2019-December 2020)



People’s Republic of China

USD 831M




USD 778M




USD 497M




USD 384M




USD 319M




USD 318M



(No data available)

USD 293M




USD 181M




USD 134M




USD 102M




USD 99.8M




USD 92.4M




USD 86.2M



Saudi Arabia

USD 83.7M




USD 80.4M




USD 70.3M




USD 61.2M




USD 49.4M




USD 48.5M



Ukraine (DPR&LPR)

USD 42.4M



USD 4.84B


Seasonality of Main Producing Regions

General Product Introduction

How was the production of sunflower seeds for 2019/2020?

Overall global production for sunflower seeds in 2019/2020 decreased, especially in Bulgaria and Canada, while producers in Ukraine and Russia saw a considerable increase in production. Prices were high for early 2020.

Bulgaria and Ukraine are two of the largest producers of sunflower seeds while Canada is a rising star with production more than doubling in the last decade to meet market demand.

Bulgarian prices are high due to shortages and increasing global demand

In Bulgaria, prices rose since November 2019 due to increases in foreign demand and lower availability this season. This was fueled by oil manufacturers purchasing products ahead and causing an even greater shortage, and wholesale prices rose around 26% at BGN 700 per metric Ton (USD 390.9) from BGN 580-610 (USD 323.9-340.7).

Demand for Bulgarian confectionery sunflower seeds has risen over recent years due to its Omega-3 health benefits. Sunflower seed production, on the other hand, decreased by almost 11% compared to the previous season as production sites went through a drought and an increasing number of farmers switched to other agricultural crops such as chickpeas and corn.

Bulgarian sunflower oil production was directly impacted and exports decreased by 29% in January of 2020 compared to the same period in 2019. In order to overcome the shortage, Bulgarian importers contracted volumes from Ukraine, but low water levels on the Danube River prevented supplies from being imported to their full volume.

Canadian prices rising due to lower harvest expectations

Prices for Canadian sunflower seeds also rose in anticipation of continuous harsh weather conditions during the spring harvest period after the country suffered from unfavorable rain and snow during winter. The main producing province of Manitoba was also affected, and some regions experienced a record-breaking one-day snowfall of 76.2 CM which delayed machine harvesting and considerably lower yield.

With 25-30% of the 2019/2020 crops left to be harvested in spring, prices moved up from approximately CAD 0.25 to 0.27 (USD 0.19 to 0.21) per pound. The shortage made buyers source from other countries in the Black Sea that saw a good harvest for 2019/2020.

Ukraine Experiences Bumper Harvest in 2019/2020 Amid Worldwide Shortage

Ukraine, on the other hand, saw timely rainfall for 2019/2020 in the middle of summer that brought optimal moisture levels in the soil which allowed production to flourish. This positively impacted Ukrainian sunflower seed exports in early 2020, especially of the oilseed variety.

Sunflower oil exports for Ukraine during 2019/2020 are thought to be at 6.2 Million metric Tons, up by 1.4 Million in 2018/2019. Demand for Ukrainian oilseed sunflower seeds is expected to grow even further as it is predicted that China and India will increase their imports for 2020 amid a worldwide shortage. China and India are sunflower oil purchasing giants that take up 40% of worldwide imports.

Exporters, however, are hesitant to increase seed exports to North American markets as there is a 10% export duty, even though buyers in these markets are willing to pay a premium for higher quality sunflower seeds. Nevertheless, Black Sea producers continue to have a competitive geographic advantage over suppliers from Canada or the U.S., as they are able to provide lower CIF shipping costs to buyers in the Middle East and Asia.

How has the export situation of Russian sunflower oil been over recent years?

Sunflower oil is the main oilseed in Russia. It accounts for 75% of the planting area of all oilseeds and up to 80% of produced vegetable oils. Over the past few years, sunflower oil has become one of the most effective drivers of development for Russia in the agricultural sector. Unlike grain, oil is a product that requires processing and thus provides a competitive edge for the country as it provides the loading of local oil refining plants, creating job positions.

By the end of 2017, Russia increased exports of sunflower oil by 32%, to a record 1.8 MT. The main factor that affected such a big increase in export is the growth of the gross yield of sunflowers in Russia. In addition, due to the increase in the number of oil importers (India, Syria, etc.), Russia's share in the world market of bulk sunflower oil increased from 18% to 21%.

There are currently no tariffs for the export of sunflower oil from Russia. For the 2019/2020 season, exports of sunflower oil accounted for the biggest volume of oilseed exports and oilseed products for processing at approximately 3.42M Tons, a 33% increase from the previous season. 

Some of the biggest importers of crude sunflower oil from Russia are Iran, Turkey, China, Egypt, India, Kazakhstan, Saudi Arabia, and Lebanon. During recent years, Russia has expanded its geography of exports to include Iraq, Syria, Oman, Myanmar, Rwanda, Belarus, and Singapore.

Russia is the biggest exporter of sunflower oil and their fractions including refined oil (excluding crude), exporting at a value of USD 470.7M, and a quantity of 581.3M Tons in 2019. During the last ten years, Russian exports have been on an increasing trend with significant jumps made during 2010-2011, 2011-2012, and 2012-2013 from USD 141M to USD 211.7 to USD 361.2 to USD 428.7 respectively. Exports after that have mostly been steady with a sudden decrease in the 2014-2015 period from USD 433.9M to USD 386M.