Sorghum Industry Aggressively Exploring New Market Opportunities, Showcasing Grain's VersatilityThu, 07 Mar 2019 13:26:33 CST
The United Sorghum Checkoff was created just ten years ago. Since that time, the US sorghum industry has worked to grow its presence in the marketplace. Florentino Lopez is executive director of the Checkoff and is leading its efforts to explore new opportunities for US sorghum producers to market their grain around the globe - focusing on the crop’s unique attributes and versatility. During the 2019 Commodity Classic in Orlando this past week, Lopez sat down with Radio Oklahoma Ag Network Associate Farm Director Carson Horn to discuss the Checkoff’s long-term strategies to expand sorghum’s production and profitability for producers, with particular emphasis on the international stage of opportunity. You can listen to their complete conversation by clicking or tapping the LISTEN BAR below at the bottom of the page.
“The international market has been important to us. It can generally represent between 30 to 50 percent of the total crop in the US,” Florentino said. “So, as we look at that, not only does it take a lion’s share of the total sorghum in the US, it also represents a lot of money that is generated from that.”
Take China for instance. Lopez reports that the sorghum going into China in recent years, accounts for roughly $1.2 billion worth of trade. Just today in fact, China made its first significant purchase of US sorghum since bringing anti-dumping claims against the commodity in February 2018. According to USDA’s export sales report for the week of Feb. 28. - March 7, 2019 China purchased 2.6 million bushels of US sorghum. Lopez says the opportunity exists to continue to expand that market even more. Working closely with the US Grains Council, he says the Checkoff is diligently engaged there in China as well as other markets that have started to evolve here of late.
“Recently, we’ve seen imports occurring in Spain. We’ve seen imports that occurred in Italy,” he said. “And, we feel it is important to go find out exactly what takes place there. So, the USGC has created some rapid response missions to really go and find out how we can help those marketplaces expand beyond where they are today.”
Domestically, the Checkoff is exploring various opportunities to expand its marketing efforts as well, looking into areas such as pet food, poultry feed and niche food markets that all have potential to add value back to the producer. A few of those areas that have shown promise and help to showcase the grain’s versatility has been in alcohol manufacturing. At the Commodity Classic, the Checkoff featured sorghum-based vodka. In China, Lopez says the sorghum derived liquor, Baijiu, is very popular. Here in the US, many brewers are choosing to incorporate sorghum into their beers. Beyond alcohol, other niche markets are being considered as the Checkoff experiments with different branding - presenting sorghum as an “ancient grain” or emphasizing its non-GMO status and high fiber content.
“We know that yield is important, and we also know that technology is critical. Since the Checkoff was started ten years ago, those are things we feel like the pipeline has started to address as new technologies are moving,” he concluded. “So, we’re going to continue to address those areas and make sure producers are not only producing more, but also more profitable long-term.”
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