Oilseeds are referred to a number of plants from whose seed oil can be obtained after a refining process. The main destination of these plants is the production of oil for human consumption, but also they are destined to the production of animal feed by its contribution of proteins and the production of industrial oils. The most cultivated oil plant in the world is soybeans, but rape and sunflower plantations are also important. In addition, oil palm, peanut and flax, which is also used in the textile industry, are also considered as oleaginous crops. Soybean oil is the world’s largest production, followed by palm oil, rapeseed, and sunflower. These oilseed oils cover world demand along with olive oil and animal fats. The great advantage of oilseed oils is that in addition to fats they also produce proteins.


Globally, the production of sunflower, soybeans and rapeseed accounts for around 80% of world production of oilseeds, and the remaining 20% corresponds to the production of cottonseed, peanut, oleaginous flax, etc. In 2014, world production of oilseeds rose to 430 million tons. Most of this production was from the soybean crop (318.2 million tons). Copper (71.7 million tonnes) and sunflower (40 million tonnes) were also important, and higher than in 2013. For another year, the United States returned to lead the world production of oilseeds, with more than 110 million tons of which more than 90% correspond to the soybean harvest. Behind the United States stand out for their production of soybeans Brazil (with 94 million tons) and Argentina (with almost 60 million tons), and to a lesser extent China and India. In rapeseed, world production is led by the European Union, but also important (above 14 million tonnes in 2014), the crops of China and Canada. Likewise, in sunflower the countries that lead the world ranking are Russia (with 9 million tons in 2014), Ukraine (10 million tons) and to a lesser extent, Argentina (2.8 million tons).

In the European Union oilseed production is about 35 million tonnes of oilseeds. The countries that contributed most to EU oilseed production were France (19%), Germany (18%) and Romania (9%). Sunflower production in the 28 Member States amounted to almost 9 million tonnes. For oilseed rape, the most widespread oil production in the EU by far, with a production of about 24 million tonnes. Finally, Community production of soybeans stood at 1.7 million tonnes. In addition to these oilseeds, flaxseed (linseed) is also harvested in the EU. In 2014 production was reduced to 125,000 tonnes (10,000 less than in 2013). In this crop there is a certain setback in recent years. In the European Union, there is a deficit in the external supply of oilcake, which, together with fishmeal, contributes to the supply of the protein products consumed by extensive livestock farming. The annual demand for this type of products is about 70 million tonnes, while the Community production does not even cover 20% of that amount. There is also a new dependence on foreign oilseeds for the production of biodiesel. In Spain the production of oilseeds (sunflower, rapeseed and soybean) production amounts to 1.1 million tonnes, where 90% of the national production is sunflower. The production of soybeans, very minority in Spain.


The market for packaged seed oils in 2014 was about 319 million liters. Sunflower oil appears as the most important offering, with about 254.9 million liters. Soybean oils, with about 1.8 million liters (-5.3%) and corn oils, with a little more than 1.2 million liters (-17.4%) appear far behind. The oils of other seeds or mixtures of seeds represent another 61.7 million liters. During the last year there have been some presentations that have had a significant acceptance in the markets. The most important ones have been special oils for frying, baking oils or sunflower and soybean oils. All these presentations also tend to break the classic preponderance of the white marks and represent offers of high added value.


The concentration and preponderance of large international groups are the two main features that characterize the business sector of seed oil in our country. Many of the leading companies in this sector also hold very relevant positions in the olive oil market.


In terms of foreign trade, the oilseeds sector has a strong import character, with large monthly variations, although in recent years imports have been declining. Imports from third countries, which accounted for 79% of the total. For its part, exports from Spain are also directed mainly to third countries, although the percentage is not as great as that of imports. The soybeans subgroup represents 66% in value of the total imports of the oilseed group. In 2014 volume purchases increased, but prices fell. Exports of soybeans, were very minority, practically testimonial. Subgroup imports of sunflower seeds, accounting for 9% in value of all oilseed purchases. The Spanish production of oilseeds is clearly insufficient to supply the demands of the domestic market, so it is imperative to use imports. In the case of pipes and sunflower cakes are some countries bordering the Black Sea our main suppliers, while Argentina ranks first in the case of soy. In the case of Spanish foreign trade in seed oils, the balance is very favorable for our country, since exports are much higher than imports. Among the exports, the highlight is the 85,780 tons of sunflower oils, followed by 73,550 tons of soybean oil, 42,220 tons of seed blends and 16,950 tons of corn oil. The main destination markets for these exports are South Africa (24.9% of the total), Portugal (23.2%), France (14.6%), Italy (8.2%), Israel And Libya (3.8%). The most important imports are oil from seed mixtures (110,030 tonnes), sunflower oil (7,210 tonnes), soybean oil (7,210 tonnes) and maize oil (3,160 tonnes).

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Montse Gonzalez