Sunflower Seeds

From Cargo Handbook - the world's largest cargo transport guidelines website
Infobox on Sunflower Seeds
Example of Sunflower Seeds
  • Europe: Southern Europe
  • Africa
  • Asia
  • America: South America
  • Australia
Stowage factor (in m3/t)
  • 3.00 m³/t (jute bags, 41 kg)
  • 2.79 - 3.07 m³/t (bags)
  • 2.19 - 2.50 m³/t (bulk)
Angle of repose -
Humidity / moisture
  • Relative humidity: 70%
  • Water content:
    7.0 - 9.5%
    7.0% (shelled goods)
    9.5% (in shell goods)
  • Maximum equilibrium moisture content: 70%
Oil content -
Ventilation Recommended ventilation conditions: air exchange rate at least 10 changes/hour (airing). It is advisable to leave trenches when stowing bags as ‘break bulk’ cargo, so that, where necessary, water vapor and heat may be removed by suitable ventilation measures.
Risk factors Of all oil-bearing seeds, sunflower seeds are the most readily susceptible to self-heating. Sunflower seeds are sensitive to unpleasant and/or pungent odors, contamination, moisture damage and insect infestation. Respiration may cause life-threatening CO2 concentrations (TLV: 0.49 vol.%) or O2 shortages in the hold/container. Therefore, before anybody enters the hold, it must be ventilated and a gas measurement carried out. Because of their tendency to self-heating, reference is made to the relevant IMO regulations on hazardous cargo ("Seed Cake").

Sunflower Seeds


The sunflower seed is the fruit of the sunflower (Helianthus annuus). The term "sunflower seed" is actually a misnomer when applied to the seed in its pericarp (hull). Botanically speaking, it is more properly referred to as an achene. When dehulled, the edible remainder is called the sunflower kernel.

There are three types of commonly used sunflower seeds. Linoleic (most common), high oleic, and Nusun. Each variety has its own unique levels of monounsaturated, saturated, and polyunsaturated fats. The information in this article refers mainly to the linoleic variety.

For commercial purposes, sunflower seeds are usually classified by the pattern on their husks. If the husk is solid black, the seeds are called black oil sunflower seeds. The crops may be referred to as oilseed sunflower crops. These seeds are usually pressed to extract their oil. Striped sunflower seeds are primarily used for food; as a result, they may be called confectionery sunflower seeds.

Sunflower seeds are more commonly eaten as a healthy snack than as part of a meal. They can also be used as garnishes or ingredients in various recipes. The seeds may be sold as in-shell seeds or dehulled kernels. The seeds can also be sprouted and eaten in salads. However, eating expired sunflower seeds may cause stomach irritation such as bloating or diarrhea due to the rotting of the seed.

When in-shell seeds are processed, they are first dried. Afterwards, they may also be roasted or dusted with salt or flour for preservation of flavor. Dehulling is commonly performed by cracking the hull with one's teeth and spitting it out while keeping the kernel in the mouth and eating it.

In-shell sunflower seeds are particularly popular in Mediterranean and Asian countries, including Egypt, Syria, Israel, Turkey, and Malaysia. In Turkey, Syria and Israel they can be bought freshly roasted in shops and markets and are a common stadium food, while in Malaysia they can be bought freshly packed in various roasted flavors. They are also popular in countries worldwide including Russia, Poland, Ukraine, Bulgaria, Romania, Spain, China, Morocco, Iran, Canada and the United States.

Dehulled kernels have been mechanically processed to remove the hull. These kernels may be sold raw or roasted. These dehulled kernels are sometimes added to bread and other baked goods for their flavor. There is also sunflower butter, similar to peanut butter, but utilizing sunflower seeds instead of peanuts. Apart from human consumption, sunflower seeds are also sold as food for pets and wild birds in boxes and small bags.

The hulls, or shells, are mostly composed of cellulose. They decompose slowly. They are sometimes burned as biomass fuel.

Over the past decades Sunflower Oil has become popular worldwide. The oil may be used as is, or may be processed into polyunsaturated margarines. The oil is typically extracted by applying great pressure to the sunflower seeds and collecting the oil. The protein-rich cake remaining after the seeds have been processed for oil is used as a livestock feed.

The original sunflower oil (linoleic sunflower oil) is high in polyunsaturated fatty acids (about 68% linoleic acid) and low in saturated fats, such as palmitic acid and stearic acid. However, various hybrids have been developed to alter the fatty acid profile of the crop for various purposes.


Sunflower seeds are processed to yield sunflower oil or are used as animal feed. They are also cultivated for green fodder and as ornamental plants.


The most favorable shipping time is generally shortly after harvest. Sunflower seeds are transported as bulk cargo or as break-bulk cargo in jute or poly-woven bags. If the lower limits set for the water content of goods, packaging and container flooring and the oil content of the goods are complied with, transport in ventilated containers (i.e. coffee containers) is suitable.

The cargo must be protected from moisture, since it may lead to mold, spoilage and self-heating as a result of increased respiratory activity. The produce is to be stowed cool and dry with good ventilation. Bagged cargo must be stowed and secured in the means of transport in such a manner that it cannot slip or shift during transport. If loss of volume and degradation of quality are to be avoided, the packages must not be damaged by other articles or items of cargo.

Sunflower seeds require particular temperature, humidity/moisture and ventilation conditions. Favorable travel temperature range: 5 - 25°C. Temperatures > 30°C should not prevail for an extended period, as such temperatures promote respiration of the cargo and may cause self-heating. The produce is not to be stowed near heat sources, in particular not above heated double bottom tanks.

Sunflower seeds must be protected from all forms of moisture (seawater, rain and condensation water).

Recommended ventilation conditions: air exchange rate at least 10 changes/hour (airing). It is advisable to leave trenches when stowing bags, so that, where necessary, water vapor and heat may be removed by suitable ventilation measures.

Risk factors

  • Self-heating / Spontaneous combustion
  • Moisture
  • Odor
  • Contamination
  • Mechanical influences
  • Toxicity / Hazards to health
  • Shrinkage/Shortage
  • Insect infestation / Diseases