According to one version, sunflower was brought to Russia in the 18th century by German immigrants; according to another, Peter I saw this flower in Holland and ordered seeds to be brought into the country, where it took root very well. For a long time, sunflower was grown only for decorative purposes, a little later, the population discovered the seeds. Today, the first association with sunflower for a Russian person is a seed. The tradition of husking seeds is preserved in villages throughout the country, and especially in the south, so on the shelves in Russian stores you can always find sachets with sunflower seeds, salted or not. And farmers grow sunflower for confectionery needs and for the sale of seeds, as well as for the production of oil.
Only at the beginning of the 19th century Russia began to produce sunflower oil. The first oil mills appeared in the south of central Russia, and then production spread to the southern regions, the Volga region, as well as the Urals.
Why sunflower and not rapeseed or soybeans? This is due, firstly, to the climate. Winters in Russia are severe; not every winter crop can withstand strong frosts. Soybean requires a lot of precipitations, and the regions where the temperatures allow it to grow are rather dry. Secondly, the Russian selection has developed many types of sunflower seeds that are resistant to the local climate. In addition, the sunflower producing cost is much lower compared to other related crops. That is why vegetable oil producers work mainly with sunflower, and Russian housewives cook with it, still considering other oils exotic.
In addition, Russia is strengthening its position as an exporter of vegetable oils in general, including sunflower oil. Indeed, the export of sunflower oil in the 2018/19 marketing year amounted to 2.6 million tons. This season, Russia can export more than 3 million tons. Demand remains high, and the competitiveness of sunflower oil may allow the country to cover not only the traditional markets of Iran, Turkey, China and Uzbekistan, but also expand its presence on the market of India, China and other Asian countries. Thus, Russia firmly takes the second place after Ukraine in the world sunflower oil exports.