2 February 2024

A rapeseed field, in Rouillé (Vienna), on April 11, 2023.

En April, a rapeseed flower is uncovered with a thread and reveals its pistil. Proof of this is given in the spring fields. The flowery carpets in warm colors unfold endlessly and the eye is almost dazzled. Especially since, this year, farmers have sown rapeseed with a vengeance. The total area exceeds 1.3 million hectares, up 9% over one year. A height gauge enlarged to the height of the hopes of profit.

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In 2022, it is true, the price of oilseeds reached peaks. With the explosion of the invasion of Ukraine by Russia, the price of sunflower lost the compass. It was then trading at more than 1,000 euros per ton, a historic high. Everyone discovered that the Ukraine alone sold more than half of the sunflower oil marketed on the planet.

Speculators were making the sauce for rapeseed oil just as much. The price of the seed reached 840 euros per ton. “The market for vegetable oils was already very tight before the war in Ukraine, after a poor rapeseed harvest in Canada and a drop in European production”underlines Sébastien Poncelet, of the firm Agritel.

Food inflation

A situation that has benefited the Avril group, armed wing of the oilseed sector and powerful agro-industrial firm. According to its managing director, Jean-Philippe Puig: “In 2022, the prices of seeds, oils and energy, therefore biodiesel, have all increased. We have thus generated more margins and had a record year. » April’s turnover jumped 32% to 9 billion euros, while profit rose 45% to 218 million. Enough to put oil in the wheels.

But Mr. Puig warned: no new exploit expected in 2023. The tide has turned on the markets. And the weather forecast for agricultural raw materials specifies it: stormy weather on oilseeds. “The prices of sunflower and rapeseed, which were at the top of the increases a year ago, are today those which fall the most. They fluctuate between 450 and 470 euros per ton”explains Mr. Poncelet.

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Attracted by the golden flower on the edge, European and Australian farmers have sown rapeseed all over the place. “European production has increased from 17 million to 20 million tonnes in 2022 and, on the Australian side, it has doubled to 8 million tonnes”, says Mr. Poncelet. As for the Ukrainian sunflower seed, blocked for a while, it has found its way back to export, with the setting up of the maritime corridor. Supply fears have evaporated, and oil prices have slipped.

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