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Iran, Iraq, Egypt rely on Ukraine for sunflower oil

The Russian attack on Ukraine has also already had major effects on the region’s energy sector and wheat imports.
AFP PHOTO / ANDREY KRASNOSCHEKOV

Middle Eastern sunflower oil imports could soon be affected by the Russian attack on Ukraine.

Ukraine was the largest exporter of sunflower seed and the related safflower oil in 2019, accounting for 45.8% of global exports. Russia was second with 23.4% of the market. Iran was the fourth-largest importer of sunflower seed or safflower oil that year, accounting for 6.25% of global imports. Iran was behind India, China and the Netherlands, according to the MIT-based Observatory of Economic Complexity.

Iran gets a large amount of its sunflower oil from Ukraine, and the export could be disrupted by the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine. Iran received the majority of its sunflower oil from Turkey in 2020, but 37.1% came from Ukraine, according to the commodity data analysis firm Tridge.

Several other Middle Eastern states’ sunflower oil imports also largely come from Ukraine. Iraq imported a whopping 87.8% of its sunflower oil from Ukraine in 2020. Egypt got 54.4% of its sunflower oil from Ukraine that year and another 18.83% from Russia.

Turkey could benefit from a stop in Ukranian and Russian sunflower oil exports. Turkey’s sunflower oil exports increased 175.55% from 2015 to 2020. Turkey also imports some sunflower oil, according to Tridge.

The war is already having effects on sunflower oil exports from Ukraine. Some 350,000 tons of India-bound oil is in jeopardy at present, Bloomberg reported today.

The Russia-Ukraine conflict is already having significant economic impacts on the Middle East. Egypt is scrambling to find alternative wheat sources due to the war. Oil prices also hit an eight-year high following the start of the invasion. 

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