Agriculture and Food Processing - Commodities: Grains & Oilseeds


About the Industry | Types of Seed | Export Markets | Top Quality | Contacts

Close-up of SunflowersThe Manitoba Advantage

The unique growing conditions in the southern regions of Manitoba makes it the most productive place in Canada to grow sunflowers.

The balanced fertility of the soil and the long, dry growing season characteristic of the region offer the ideal growing
environment for sunflowers.

This results in Manitoba producing over 90 percent of Canada's total sunflower crop. Consequently, this region is known as the "Manitoba Sunflower Belt".

About the Industry

Sunflower production is a relatively small but nonetheless important part of the Manitoba agricultural industry.

Typically, Manitoba producers planted approximately 150 to 200 thousand acres of sunflowers a year, harvesting approximately 250 million pounds  of sunflower seed.

All sunflower varieties grown in Manitoba are hybrids and based on their end use, can be classified into either oil or confectionery type sunflowers.

Approximately 70% of all Canadian sunflowers are confection-type, which are marketed primarily as roasted snack food in the shell or as dehulled seeds for the baking industry. Although a significant percentage of this market is domestic (North America), Canadian processors are increasingly accessing markets in Europe, the Middle East and Asia.

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Field of SunflowersSeeds

Sunflowers grown for oil are characterized by black hulls and they can be conventional hybrids, dwarf hybrids or open pollinated varieties. With oil-type sunflowers there are 3 different groupings: traditional, mid-oleic (NuSun), and high oleic. These groupings are based according to their specific oil profile. The mid-oleic varieties have an oil profile that is intermediate to the traditional and the high-oleic sunflower varieties.

Oilseed sunflowers are used for both birdfeed and the oil crushing markets. Sunflower oil, which is one of the highest quality vegetable oils has growing demand from human consumption markets, specifically for the mid-oleic (NuSun) oil profile.  As such, a growing percentage of oilseed acres are being planted of the NuSun type in Manitoba. Traditional oil varieties continue to be produced in Manitoba, however market demands for this oil are declining. 

The non-oil or confectionery type sunflowers have striped hulls and can be roasted and salted or baked into bread products for human consumption.  Only the largest of the confection type sunflowers are used for human consumption and there is little tolerance for bird or insect damage. Confection-type sunflowers have a standard bushel weight of 25 lb/bushel as compared to 30 lb/bushel for oil- type sunflowers. Canadian Grain Commission minimum test weights for No. 1 Canada sunflowers are 155g/0.5L for confection-type sunflowers, 169g/0.5L for oil-type sunflowers
Both the oil type and the confectionery type of sunflower seed can be cleaned and/or mixed with other seeds and bagged for birdfeed.  

The birdfood market is comprised of about 85% oilseed sunflowers, however some of the smaller confection seeds are also used for birdseed.

Export Markets

Manitoba's largest export markets include the United States and several European countries. Oil-type sunflowers grown in Manitoba are either exported for oil crushing or used as bird food both domestically and internationally.

Manitoba does not currently have a large scale sunflower crushing facility, thus most oilseed sunflower production in Manitoba is either processed in Manitoba for the birdfood market or exported as raw a product to crushing facilities in the United States.

Confection sunflowers however, are processed locally in Manitoba and are sorted based on sizes, with the largest sizes (Jumbo) being the premium product.

Dehulled confection type sunflowers are marketed both domestically and internationally. The European countries of Belgium, Germany and The Netherlands are large consumers of dehulled sunflowers as well as China.

The in-shell confection type sunflowers are also sold both domestically and into export markets. Within Manitoba there are several secondary processors that roast and flavour the in-shell seed.

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Manitoba's climate provides ideal growing conditions for the production of top quality sunflower seeds.

Both confection and oil type sunflowers must meet the same grade standards as established by the Canadian Grain Commission.

However, confection standards are considerably higher than those established for oil type sunflowers since they are used for direct human consumption. Manitoba producers have a long tradition of growing sunflowers and have a reputation for sound management experience.

The province is recognized for its production of top quality sunflower and a commitment to meet customer demand both domestically and internationally.

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Mila Ruiz Turiaf

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Manitoba Trade & Investment
1100 - 259 Portage Avenue
Winnipeg, Manitoba,
Canada R3B 3P4

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