Quality of sunflower seed-2020/21 and by-products: estimations by Cotecna





If we continue the topic of quality of the main crops in 2020/21 MY we should focus on the quality of sunflower seeds and byproducts in Ukraine and Russia which are not only the largest producers of the oilseed, but also the leading exporters of sunflower oil. Thus, the quality of the product is always under close scrutiny especially this year, when the weather conditions were extremely unfavorable during the crop formation. And we should remember that the control and requirements to the quality of sunflower oil from the importing countries are in place!

Arina Korchmaryova Vice President - Baltic, Black and Caspian seas Business Group at Cotecna Inspection presented to APK-Inform the assessments of the quality parameters of sunflower oil in 2019/21 MY, and sunflower seeds and byproducts of 2020-crop.

2019/20 MY SUMMARY

- First of all, we would like to sum up the results of the past 2019/20 MY in the oilseeds sector and discuss the quality parameters of Ukrainian and Russian sunflower oil. Have there been any new features and what were the main characteristics for the products obtained from the processing of sunflower seeds of the 2019 harvest?

Over the past few years, Ukrainian and Russian sunflower oil show quite stable quality indicators from season to season. Black Sea oil has won its position on the world market due to its stable high quality. Change in quality of sfs oil usually relates not to sfs harvest itself, but to the processing plant, its equipment and overall technical base. It is worth to mention that historically, Russian sfs crude oil has a darker color, higher content of sediments and phosphorus compared to Ukrainian oil. However, in Ukraine, safety indicators of sfs crude require more careful control.

Sunflower meal also is quite stable in its quality from season to season. However, this year we can expect the quality of Ukrainian sunflower meal to deteriorate a bit due to adverse weather conditions and thus diseases of sunflower plants that lead to a decrease in the quality of sunflower seed crops.

Thus, in the 2020/2021 MY sunflower meal, lower protein content and higher fiber content may be expected compared to previous seasons.

As for the balance of parameters, they are expected to be approximately at the level of the season 2019/2020.


Sunflower meal – 2019 crop (Cotecna Odessa Laboratory statistics)

Statistics ,

crop 2019

(GAFTA 2:1) /
(ISO 6496)

(N x 6.25),
as is,
(GAFTA 4:1)/
(ISO 5983-2)

Crude FIBER, %
as is,
(GAFTA 9:0)/
(ISO 6865)

Oil (FAT), %
as is,
(GAFTA 3:0)/
(ISO 6492)

Crude ASH, %, as is,
(GAFTA 11:1)/
(ISO 5984)

Ash insoluble in HCL
, as is,
(GAFTA 12:0)/
(ISO 5985)

(GAFTA 6:0)/
(ISO 6654)


























Sunflower meal – prognosis for 2020 crop

Statistic indicator ,

crop 2019

PROTEIN, %   (N x 6.25),
as is,
(GAFTA 4:1)/ (ISO 5983-2)

Crude FIBER, %
as is, (GAFTA 9:0)/
(ISO 6865)





Safety parameters deserve a separate discussion.

- Regarding the quality of sunflower oil from the Black Sea region one of the major questions is the residual level of pesticides. How has the situation changed in MY 2019/20 compared to previous seasons?

Unfortunately, the situation with the content of residual amounts of pesticides in sfs crude oil has not changed in Ukraine and still remains alarming. The widespread use of chemicals that are easily available and very effective in pest control, often violations of application pattern together with quite high limits of Ukrainian regulatory documents contribute to a situation in which control is reduced to determination of the pesticide residues level in the exported product. There are no preventive measures for control.

An additional complexity, in our opinion, still lies in the difficulty to predict the redistribution of pesticides (especially fat-soluble) between oil and solid processed products (oil cakes and meals)

Control of the pesticides’ content in processed products - oil and meal - demonstrates a large list of detections, as well as excess of EU standards for some of them.

For crude sfs oil the list of the most frequently detected pesticide cases, which we would classify as risky, is as follows:

- chlorpyrifos (detection 42 %, excess of EU reg 24 %)

- metalaxyl (detection 20 %, excess of EU reg 16,7 %)

- thiamethoxam (detection 5 %, excess of EU reg 3,8 %)

For sfs meal the list is wider and also the ratio "detection / excess of EU" ratio changes significantly

For sfs meals our list of risks includes:

- metalaxyl (detection 21 %, excess of EU reg 19,4 %)

- chlorpyrifos (detection 18 %, excess of EU reg 16,5 %)

- thiamethoxam (detection 16,5 %, excess of EU reg 16,5 %)

- fludioxonil (detection 16,4 %, excess of EU reg 16,4 %)

- imidacloprid (detection 21 %, excess of EU reg 13,4 %)

- clothianidin (detection 16,5 %, excess of EU reg 10 %)

- carbendazim (detection 16,5 %, excess of EU reg 7,5 %)

In general, the list of pesticides that we keep detecting year after year is fairly stable and we observe the most effective and popular pesticides on a regular basis with minor variations in the percentage of excess of EU regulations.

The presence of these pesticide residues in by-products indicates the fact of the usage of the specific list of chemicals, which we recommend for careful monitoring. While pesticide residues can be eliminated from crude oil during the refining process, meal contamination poses more substantial problem. Even though meals are not in a food product category, the requirements for pesticide residues in meals are still at a fairly high level and in most cases are limited by regulation 396/2006. Most often, meal is used as a basic product for feed mixtures, therefore, it is very important to follow the requirements for pesticide residues that can accumulate in meat and dairy products.

The situation with the presence of a residual amount of pesticides in sunflowers of Russian origin remains at a positive and stable level in recent years. According to the results of analyzes carried out in our laboratories, there are single determinations above the detection limits, but all indicators are within the limits set by the importing countries.

Sunflower harvest quality-2020

- The weather conditions in 2020 turned to be unfavorable for the formation of a high-quality oilseeds harvest, especially sunflower. In regard to the first assessments of the oilseeds quality in Ukraine, according to representatives of elevators and processors, there is a decrease in the oil content and an increase in foreign matter content. What are the assessments of the sunflower seeds quality from Cotecna?

The wet spring and early summer became a motivating factor for the development of diseases. Almost all diseases of crops were revealed during Cotecna crop tour - black stem (causal agent - Phoma helianthi Aleks.) and stem canker (Phomopsis helianthi Munt.), black spot of sunflower (Alternaria helianthi Pidopl.), white rot (Sclerotinia sclerotiorum (Lib.) de Bary) and gray mould (Botrytis cinerea Pers.), downy mildew (Plasmopara halstedii Farl.), powdery mildew (Erysiphe cichoracearum f. helianthi Jacz), and etc. Despite the wide species composition, the number of affected plants did not exceed the level, which leads to a significant decrease in the quality and yield of sunflower. An increase in foreign matter content (according to DSTU) can be caused by the development of diseases on plants weakened by heat, which led to an increase in the amount of damaged grains fraction.

Please see below the statistical data on the quality indicators of sunflower seeds harvest 2019 and 2020:

Statistics ,

crop 2019



OIL, %
as is

OIL, %
on dry







Statistics ,

crop 2020



OIL, %
as is

OIL, %
on dry






As can be seen from the above data, foreign matter noticed this season at the higher level in comparison with the previous year.

There is also a lower oil content.

- Can you describe the regional characteristics of the quality of sunflower?

For several years, weather conditions in different regions of Ukraine have been making a negative contribution to the quality of the sunflower harvest. This year the southern regions of the country (Odessa and Nikolaev regions) suffered the most from the heat and lack of rain, where most of the fields sown with sunflowers "burned out" from drought. The yield of sunflowers in the Odessa region is about 1-2 c / ha, in some fields the crop was not even harvested. In central Ukraine, along with drought, sharp changes in day and night temperatures led to the formation of excess morning moisture, which contributed to the development of a wide range of phytopathogenic fungi. However, the central and eastern regions of the country suffered much less from the drought than the South of Ukraine. The yield in the central part of the country is estimated at approximately 10-14 kg / ha; in the eastern regions, on average, within 15-18 c / ha; in the north-east and west the projected yield is up to 30 %. The relationship between low yields, increased foreign matter content and decreased oil content, in our opinion, is obvious. At the same time, the reduction in foreign matter content tends to 3-4 % in sunflowers from areas where the yield is more than 15 c / ha.

In recent years, there is a growing interest from agricultural producers to the cultivation of high oleic sunflowers. What is the situation this year with the quality of this oilseed?

In Ukraine, we work mostly with high oleic oil. We can assume that this year the average value of quality indicators will remain at the level of last year, however the minimum and maximum values will vary.

In the Russian Federation, traditionally the majority of high oleic sunflower is grown in the Privolgye and Central regions mainly due to climatic and soil characteristics of the regions. So far, it is difficult to judge the quality of the harvest in 2020, as at present only one fifth of the crop has been harvested. However, if we compare 2018 and 2019, based on data from Cotecna Inspection (Vostok), we see an increase in oleic acid content from 83.46% to 84.57%. This is primarily due to the use of high quality seeds, as well as the improvement of farming standards in the regions.

- What is the situation with quality of sunflower in Russian federation this year?

To date, about 18% of the sunflower planting area has been harvested in Russia, thus it is too early to make conclusions. The crop still shows a lag in yield compared to last year by about 20%. The main reason for the poor harvest is unfavorable weather conditions, primarily in southern Russia: a dry spring there was followed by a dry summer, which caused significant damage to sunflowers. In this regard, it is expected that the oil content in the southern regions will decrease by 2-5%, however, the rest of quality indicators will not suffer and will remain at the level of 2019. In turn, the Center and the Volga region should fully cover the losses of the South.

Usually, the yield varies from region to region, as well as from farm to farm, while the quality remains quite stable. First of all, this is due to business interest of each producer in purchasing high-quality seeding material and improving overall the culture of farming. The trend that we observe in that regards is quite positive. Also, Russian government provides subsides to regional research institutes for introduction of new high-productive hybrids that assist farmers with improving of yields and stable quality crops.

Please see below quality comparison table for sunflower seed crops 2018 and 2019


Oil content as is, %

(ISO 659)

Moisture, %

(ISO 665)

FFA on extracted oil (as oleic acid), % (ISO 660)

Foreign material, % (ISO 658)

Ambrosia seeds, ppm

(EU 574)

Harvest 2018



















Harvest 2019



















- How serious an impact the quality of sunflower seeds will make to the quality of sunflower oil? What kind of “surprises” can processors face?

For Ukraine, the traditional and not even longer a surprise, but rather a predictable problem – is a contamination with polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), in particular, benzo(a)pyrene.

There are following sources of seed contamination with PAHs:

- Air pollution

- Soil contamination

- Storage of sunflower seeds on warehouses with floors made of asphalt

- The most dangerous source of pollution is sunflower seed drying with solid fuel (smoke gases), in which incomplete combustion products settle on the husk surface. Even if the technological process involves hulling, PAHs pass on into the oil.

It is worth noting that traditionally Ukrainian consumers like "fried scented” oil. The technology of its production does not imply the hulling of seeds and the roasting is taking place at high temperatures. Such oil is a ticking bomb because benzo(a)pyrene does not decompose but accumulates in the human body.

Unlike Ukrainian seeds, seeds of Russian origin are dried using natural gas, which minimizes the presence of benzo(a)pyrene both in the seed itself and in the oil.

In this regard, in Russia, there is no benzo(a)pyrene removing problem. 

- What should sunflower oil exporters pay attention to when forming export lots in the new 2020/21 MY, both Ukrainian and Russian?

When forming export consignments, it is necessary to pay attention, first of all, to the requirements specified in a particular contract for quality and safety parameters, as well as to the current legislation of importing countries.

Ukrainian sunflower oil is exported to many countries around the world. At this, the major part of export falls to such countries as: India, China, Europe (Netherlands, Spain, Italy, etc.), Sudan, Iraq and others. At the same time, each importing country has its own standard set of quality and safety parameters, as well as the controlled limits. The list of parameters in different countries may be the same (or similar in content), but the limits for a particular parameter in different countries may be different. The main controlled parameters for sunflower oil are: moisture, insoluble impurities, acidity, peroxide value, sediments, iodine value, phosphorus, fatty acid composition, pesticide residues, mineral oils, polyaromatic hydrocarbons (benzo(a)pyrene), sterols (including cholesterol), residual solvents, dioxins and heavy metals.

Our company constantly monitors compliance with the requirements of each recipient country's contract, as countries may change the list of parameters as well as their specifications.

In terms of safety parameters, there are three main positions are at risk:

- Pesticides used in the field and/or in warehouses;

- Benz(a)pyren and PAH4, which can get into the seed and then into oil;

- Residual solvents (hexanes) that are part of the production process. In case of incomplete removal, the content of this parameter may be exceeded and we also recommend its control during batch preparation.

- When exporting sunflower oil, to which countries is the most vigilance required?

The widest list of requirements for the quality and safety of sunflower oil is prescribed by European countries, China, Sudan and Iran.

At the same time, based on statistical data and possible risks of inconsistency of batch quality with contractual specifications, parameters requiring special attention are sediments, phosphorus, residual solvents and benz(a)pyren.

Also, the residual quantities of pesticides should be carefully watched. Recently EU tightened limits for Chlorpirifos and Chlorpirifos-methyl for all types of agricultural products, and this fact may attract special attention to this safety parameter for sf soil despite the fact that the current limit of Chlorpirifos for sunflower oil max 0.01 ppm coincides with the new universal limit to be applied for all types of cargoes starting from November 13, 2020. Thus, when it comes to exporting sunflower oil to the European market, such shipments should be more closely monitored, because unfortunately we regularly encounter situations when the actual content of some pesticides in sunflower oil samples exceeds the maximum allowable limits.

Interviewed by Elena Cheridnichenko