Friday, March 21, 2014

Sudden demand from China, drought tolerance make sorghum the old crop that's new and hot

Sorghum is the new booming export business from the U.S. to China. Sales this marketing year through March 6 are more than 2.2 million metric tons (87 million bushels), and Chinese buyers "are expected to purchase over 3.1 MMT for the 2013 marketing year, representing a whopping 40 percent of the U.S. sorghum crop," reports Agri-Pulse, a Washington newsletter. Sorghum sales last year to China were zero. (U.S. Grains Council graphic)
Tom Sleight, president and CEO of the U.S. Grains Council, told Agri-Pulse, “We’ve always been promoting sorghum as part of our mix in China, but for the longest time most of our sales have been to Mexico. With restrictions on corn imports (as a result on private tariff rate quota allocations) and problems we’ve been having with biotech acceptance of some traits, sorghum has become the new darling in China.”

Sorghum is a grain, forage or sugar crop that is among the most efficient crops in conversion of solar energy and use of water, according to the National Sorghum Producers. Part of its allure is its drought tolerance.

In 2013 U.S. growers, mostly in the High Plains, planted 8.1 million acres of sorghum, down from 27 million acres in 1957 and 13 million acres in 1996, Agri-Pulse reports. But Tim Lust, CEO of the United Sorghum Checkoff Program, said "seed sales appear to be 'way up' and he expects acreage to expand across central Kansas and northern Oklahoma." Agri-Pulse is subscription only, but a free trial is available by clicking here.

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