Australian Sunflower Industry Facts & Figures

Australian Sunflower Industry Facts & Figures

Nutritional and Health Benefits of Sunflower

Sunflower seeds contain healthy unsaturated oils, protein and fibre plus essential nutrients that help maintain good health. As they are a good source of protein, sunflower seeds have been seen as a long-time staple for vegetarians and vegans who don’t eat meat.

2005 Fact Sheet Nutritional Benefits of Sunflower Products

The Australian sunflower industry is positioned to benefit from growth in the domestic and international oilseed markets. Globally, Australia is well located to access increasing market demands from growth in both the domestic and Asian niche markets for birdseed, confectionary and horse feed. The key challenge for all sectors of the value chain remains the ability of processors and manufacturers to guarantee continuous supply for domestic consumers of sunflower products.

Australian Sunflower Area and Production by Variety, Area and Plant

Historically, a large percentage of the Australian crop was comprised of polyunsaturated varieties, commencing with the 1974 release of Pacific Seeds first Australian hybrid for the bottled oil and margarine markets. Meeting the demands of health-conscious consumers, the majority of the domestic production is now dedicated to monounsaturated varieties. Since the introduction of monounsaturated varieties in the 1980s, a smaller percentage of polyunsaturated and confectionary varieties have been grown to supply niche markets for edible oils and spreads, bird seed, horse feed and other animal feed markets in Australia and exported throughout Asia.

Northern New South Wales, Southern Queensland and Central Queensland are the key locations for sunflower production in Australia. Strong interest from growers in the southern NSW and Victorian irrigation areas has seen an increase in hectares planted in southern regions over the last two years.

Reflecting the highly variable nature of production in Australia, many Australian manufacturers of the oils and spreads ensure continuity of supply by importing oil as insurance against production failure in Australia. The imported oils then act as a benchmark for the domestic price.

Sunflower is primarily a summer crop and competes with other summer cropping options such as cotton, sorghum, maize, pulses and soybeans.

Domestic Supply and Demand

Currently, up to 50% of the domestic sunflower oil market has been supplied by international competitors. For more than a decade, consumer demand for polyunsaturated and monounsaturated oil products has grown consistently (Table 3). This is due primarily to the demand for sustainably-produced, healthier and longer life oils from the food service and food manufacturing sectors.

High oleic canola has the potential to capture a growing share of the domestic monounsaturated market, driven by that industry’s ability to provide a consistent supply of oilseed. (Canola production totalled 4.2 million tonnes in 2012/13, reverting towards a 2.5 - 3 million tonne average, with an exportable surplus of 1.5-2.0 million tonnes.)

End user demand for polyunsaturated sunflower oil could drive growth in this sector, although the price to growers will be set by import parity. The percentage of sunflower seed consumed by animal feed markets is difficult to assess. It has been estimated that the industry has the potential to consume up to 15,000mt of both monounsaturated and polyunsaturated sunflowers.

Better Sunflower Workshops

Gain the technical skills and knowledge to achieve reliable and profitable Sunflower production by attending a Better Sunflowers workshop. Offered since 2010, more than 500 industry members have attended from Moama, Griffith, Dubbo, Gunnedah, Goondiwindi, Toowoomba, Dalby and Emerald.

In response to industry, the intensive workshop is held over one full day only. It includes a mix of theory, demonstrations and hands-on activities. All participants attending the workshop receive The Big Yellow Sunflower Pack, a comprehensive folder containing the latest research on sunflower production in Australia.

Workshops consist of 8 modules written and delivered by acknowledged industry experts: Marketing; Plant Growth and Development; Agronomy, including Irrigation Management; Weed Management; Disease Management; Insect Management; Harvesting; Safe Storage plus an interactive session Sunflower in the Rotation.

All workshops present the most up-to-date data available, and information tailored to the region where it is held. The ASA thanks theGrains Research Development Corporation for its ongoing financial support to provide these workshops, as well as the many contributing organisations.

For more information or to register your interest, email

Accredited Training

The Better Sunflower one-day agronomic workshops provide growers and agronomists with the opportunity to seek certification as a Better Sunflower Adviser and gain nationally recognised qualifications.

The Better Sunflower Agronomic Training is accredited through the ASA’s partnership with Tocal College NSW for the following units of competency:

  • Plan and implement agricultural crop maintenance (AHCBAC404A)

  • Diagnose plant health problems (AHCPCM501A)

  • Plan and manage long term weed, pest and/or disease control in crops (AHCBAC505A)

To complete their assessment, those attending the workshops complete a workbook and group exercises. This is followed by a phone interview to summarise production experiences during season approximately six months later.

Better Sunflower Advisers are promoted via the Better Sunflowers website and bi-monthly newsletter. The Sunflower accreditation also is recognised by Crop Consultants Australia as contributing to the professional membership up-skilling requirements:

The ASA provides the opportunity for accreditation at cost as a service to industry.

For more information, email