It May Be Difficult to Find Sunflower Oil on Grocery Shelves Soon — And Here’s Why

published Mar 9, 2022
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Sunflowers at sunset
Credit: Getty Images/Evgeni Dinev Photography

As Russia’s invasion of Ukraine drives up oil prices at the pump, there’s another oil that might be in short supply: sunflower oil. The sunflower is Ukraine’s national flower, and the seeded blossoms blanket portions of the countryside. Ukraine is the world’s top exporter of sunflower oil, producing 46 percent of the global supply of sunflower seed and safflower oil in 2019.

While you might not notice anything different at your local supermarket, it’s only a matter of time before the disruption to Ukrainian exports catches up. Some markets in Spain are already limiting purchases of sunflower oil per customer. Europe and India are especially reliant on Ukraine’s exports and are big buyers of the cooking oil.

While America exports a relatively small percentage of its domestic sunflower oil, a shortage of this size will affect the entire market. With other countries looking to fill a gap in their supply, the scarcity will send prices up and further shrink supplies across the globe.

Even if you don’t regularly use sunflower oil at home, it is a popular ingredient in snack foods like potato chips. And with supply chain issues and labor shortages already squeezing food companies, increased oil costs will ultimately be passed onto the chip-eating consumer. Add disruptions like this to already high inflation, and you get, well, more inflation.

Because producing sunflower oil takes several months (growing the flowers, harvesting, processing, and bottling), there’s no way to speed up production to meet the demand. Only time will tell exactly what effect the shortage will have on the availability and pricing of products, but expect to spend more on certain oils and snack foods in the near future.