Sorghum, a growing market
Due to its ability to adapt to dry and hot conditions, farmers are more and more interested in growing sorghum, driving market growth.
What is sorghum?
Sorghum (scientific Sorghum), is a cereal from Ethiopia that belongs to the Poaceae family of grasses. It is frequently used in India and Africa, where it is known under the name “kafir”. Although it is not well known in Europe, it is the fifth most cultivated cereal in the world.
Similar in appearance to chickpeas and corn, the grains are small and round, and the most common colors are white, bronze and ocher. The white grain is used for human and animal feed, the yellow for fodder, and the brown for beer production.
Its composition is very similar to corn, it has a high carbohydrate content, low fat content and is a source of B vitamins. It does not contain gluten and stands out for its high fiber content.
In the countries where it is grown the most, it is used as food, as animal feed or biofuel. We should keep in mind that only sorghum grains can be consumed, as the fresh shoots and roots of sprouted sorghum and their extracts are toxic.
World sorghum market
The sorghum production worldwide is estimated at approximately 63.9M tons, much less than other cereals with similar characteristics such as corn, a cereal that in 2021 had a world production of 1,197 million tons.
Currently, sorghum is mostly cultivated in: United States (19.1%), Nigeria (10.9%), Sudan (10.1%), Mexico (7.8%), Ethiopia (7.4% ) and India (6.9%).
More than 80% is used for feed and its consumption as food is growing rapidly.
In 2021, the value of sorghum and sorghum seed market was estimated at USD 11.8 billion.
In the same year, US sorghum prices increased 55% compared to the previous year, reaching $5.94 per bushel or $234 per ton. By 2022, prices are forecast to rise 2% year-over-year, driven by increased spending on fertilizers and increased demand from China, which is the largest importer of US sorghum.
Increased demand for sorghum for feed and as a biofuel, combined with limited supply, has led to price increases. U.S. sorghum production increased 20% year-over-year to 11.4 million tons in 2021, due to the expansion of the harvested area with 27%, reaching 6.49 million acres.
Sorghum, a growing market
Due to its ability to adapt to dry and hot conditions, farmers are more and more interested in growing sorghum, driving market growth. According to the Agricultural Marketing Resource Center (AgMRC), the global area planted with sorghum has increased by 66% in the last 50 years.
Sorghum seeds can withstand drought, soil toxicity, and temperature fluctuations better than other forage seeds. Thriving in dry, low-fertility conditions, sorghum seeds give farmers higher yields than other crops. The market is also increasing due to the high production of biofuels from sorghum.
The consumption of seeds in the human daily diet is also increasing, due to its high fiber content, since it helps eliminate bad cholesterol (LDL cholesterol), improve heart health and prevent several cardiovascular diseases, such as heart attacks, strokes and atherosclerosis.
Another property that sorghum has is that it absorbs part of the sugar that we eat, controlling the amount of glucose in the blood and, therefore, it is highly recommended for people with diabetes.
Additionally, due to its ability to provide a good supply of phospholipids in the diet, sorghum is commonly used in animal feed.
Countries around the world are investing in expanding the sorghum seed business to take advantage of arid land with limited water resources. Similarly, due to profits, the private sector is motivated to invest in sorghum seeds due to the substantial profitability of seed sales. Therefore, the growing use of sorghum seeds is increasing the market.
Use of sorghum in animal feed
For livestock, sorghum has many advantages, although similar to corn as composition, it has a higher energy value. Both the starch content, which is an energy source, and the protein content are equivalent or even higher than corn and comparable to wheat.
In animal feed, the amount of tannins contained in sorghum must be taken into account, since these are anti-nutritional factors.
According to the content of condensed tannins we can classify grain sorghums into two groups:
– Without condensed tannins: red and white sorghums
– With condensed tannins: brown and coffee sorghums
For pig feeding, sorghum varieties with low or no condensed tannins can be used in the diet formulation. These varieties, due to their nutritional and energy value, can even replace corn in the diet.
On the contrary, the varieties of sorghum that contain condensed tannins, although they are more resistant to fungi and have better conservation, are not recommended in diets for monogastrics, having many inconveniences at the nutritional level.
For poultry, the new tannin-free sorghum varieties can be used up to 70% in broiler and layer rations and 55% in turkey rations where corn is substituted.
As for ruminants, like corn, sorghum offers a high potential for good quality forage production, both for the protein contribution for rearing and the energy value for fattening.
Sorghum can also be used to replace cassava in the diet of fish. According to a study carried out by the United States Grain Council (USGC), the effectiveness of sorghum as a substitute for cassava in the Pangasius diet has been demonstrated. The trials were conducted in Vietnam on a private farm and compared diets based on sorghum, corn, and cassava. The results were positive regarding the starch source provided by the sorghum and the growth performance of the fish. In addition to starch, sorghum is low in tannins and contains more protein than cassava.
In conclusion, sorghum is very beneficial for livestock and can be used in formulas for poultry, ruminants, pigs and fish.