American sorghum acres are rising this year, and the association has its sights on key emerging markets. Sub-Saharan Africa and India offer tremendous opportunity for U.S. sorghum farmers as populations and protein needs continue to grow.
The past few years have been exciting for American sorghum. The industry has seen tremendous market growth—domestically and internationally. While China has been the dominant player for international demand, the sorghum industry has its sights on many existing and new customers. Two regions that offer significant potential for U.S. sorghum farmers include Africa and India.
African Market: Old Grain, New Uses
For years, sorghum has proven to be an asset in the battle against food insecurity in Sub-Saharan Africa. Sorghum is rich in protein, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals and works well as a blended food ingredient—these attributes make sorghum a natural choice as nations work to eliminate food insecurity.
Sources indicate that Africa’s population is increasing at the rapid rate of 2.7 percent year over year—twice as fast as South Asia and 0.9 percent faster than Latin America. If growth continues at this rate, Africa’s population will double by 2050. This creates tremendous market opportunity for food initiatives and sorghum is perfectly positioned to leverage its nutrient-dense and sustainable attributes to the emerging African market. Another benefit is the African people’s familiarity with sorghum as it is commonly consumed and native to the continent.
In addition to food aid efforts, the African poultry industry is set to explode on scale with expected population growth. According to Feed Navigator, a publication dedicated to reporting on feed demand globally, the Sub-Saharan African poultry and egg industries are developing quickly due to local and international interests in producing large quantities of high-quality food. Sorghum’s nutritional profile and feeding applications make sorghum an excellent option for poultry producers.
Recently, United Grain worked collaboratively with state- and national-level sorghum organizations, the U.S. Grains Council and the Port of Houston to move several vessels of grain to Africa for field trials targeting food aid efforts. These recent advancements in industry-wide collaboration and infrastructure improvements have allowed American sorghum producers to benefit from new-found markets.
Indian Market: Growing Population & Demand
The United Nations projects India’s population to dramatically increase by 2050 to a staggering 1.64 billion people. At this rate of population growth, India is set to overtake China’s enormous population by 2027.
The National Institute of Health reports India’s preferred non-vegetarian protein is chicken. The Indian poultry industry is increasing by 10 percent annually to meet growing demand and population growth.
What does this mean for sorghum? Chickens need to eat, and sorghum can be used as a primary ingredient in poultry feed rations. Chicken’s ability to digest crude protein and amino acids found in sorghum make it a favorable alternative to comparable grains, plus sorghum’s climate resilience and nutritional components make the grain invaluable to the untapped Indian market.
With over 80 percent of U.S. sorghum entering the export market, U.S. sorghum grower groups are excited for the prospects of a more robust, diverse export portfolio. There are still tariffs on U.S. sorghum into India and other obstacles to overcome before the U.S. gains market access to either region, but Team Sorghum recognizes the importance of these international markets and looks forward to the opportunity they offer U.S. producers.
This story originally appeared in the Spring 2021 Issue of Sorghum Grower magazine.