A BOOM in demand for sunflower seeds has seen production of the crop increase significantly in eastern Europe's Black Sea countries.

Output in the 2016-2017 season has risen by 11%, putting the crop on course for a record year.

According to Sunseedman, a brokerage and consultancy in Turkey, the top growers in Ukraine and Russia are helping to boost production to 47.5 million tons of seeds up from earlier estimates of 45 million tons.

Russian farmers sowed sunflowers on 7.5 million hectares this year, which is around 6% higher than earlier estimates. Although Russia produces about 14 million tons of oilseeds each year, it has the capacity to process 20 million tons into cooking oil, prompting its Minister for Agriculture, Alexander Tkachev, to call on even more farmers to sow oilseeds.

Ukraine, meanwhile, is the biggest exporter of sunflower oil to customers in India, the European Union, China, Egypt and Turkey. Russia’s markets are more limited, supplying the product mainly to Turkey and Egypt.