Cover Image
close this bookThe world sorghum and millet economies: facts, trends and outlook. (1996)
close this folderPart I. Sorghum
View the documentIntroduction
View the documentProduction trends
View the documentUtilization
View the documentStocks
View the documentInternational Trade
View the documentInternational market prices
View the documentInternal marketing and domestic policies
View the documentTechnological change, environmental issues and focus of research
View the documentMedium-term outlook7
View the documentSummary and conclusions

Utilization

Worldwide, total utilization of sorghum fell slightly from 65.4 million tons in 1979-81 to 63.5 million tons in 1992-94 (Table 3). In the early 1980s an estimated 39 percent of global production was used as food and 54 percent for feed. The proportion of food utilization has gradually increased as a result of a greater food use in Africa and the substitution of sorghum by other grains (mainly maize) as feed elsewhere. By 1992-94, 42 percent of total utilization was for food and 48 percent for animal feed.

Food use

Worldwide, approximately 27 million tons of sorghum were consumed as food each year during the 1992-94 period (Table 3), almost the entire amount in Africa and Asia. It is a key staple in many parts of the developing world, especially in the drier and more marginal areas of the semi-arid tropics. Per caput food consumption of sorghum in rural producing areas is more stable, and usually considerably higher, than in urban centres. And within these rural areas, consumption tends to be highest in the poorest, most food-insecure regions.

Sorghum is eaten in a variety of forms that vary from region to region. In general, it is consumed as whole grain or processed into flour, from which traditional meals are prepared. There are four main sorghum-based foods:

· flat bread, mostly unleavened and prepared from fermented or unfermented dough in Asia and parts of Africa;

· thin or thick fermented or unfermented porridge, mainly consumed in Africa;

· boiled products similar to those prepared from maize grits or rice;

· preparations deep-fried in oil.

Per caput consumption of sorghum - and its importance as a food security crop - is highest in Africa. For example, per caput consumption is 90-100 kg/yr in Burkina Faso and Sudan; sorghum provides over one-third of the total calorie intake in these two countries. However, per caput food consumption in Africa has fallen slightly (0.1 percent per annum) between 1979 and 1994 (Table 4), most sharply in Eastern Africa. Sorghum production in Africa rose by 44 percent during this period, but even this increase was not quite sufficient to keep pace with population growth.

During the 1979-94 period, per caput consumption of sorghum declined slightly through the 1980s, as a result of strong production growth. If this growth could be maintained, food security and nutrition levels could be improved substantially in rural areas, where over 90 percent of food sorghum in Africa is consumed.

In Asia, sorghum continues to be a crucial food security crop in some areas (e.g., rural Maharashtra in India, where per caput consumption is over 70 kg/yr). However, both production and food utilization have fallen during the 1980s and early 1990s, because of shifting consumer preferences. As incomes rise, consumers are shifting to wheat and rice which taste better and are easier and faster to cook. This trend is accentuated by rapid urbanization and the growing availability of a range of convenience foods based on wheat and rice.

Government policies in a number of countries have also contributed to the decline in food utilization of sorghum. For instance, imports of relatively cheap wheat and rice by many countries discouraged the consumption of locally produced cereals. In other countries (China and India), government purchases and sales of sorghum under public distribution systems were discontinued, lowering utilization in urban areas. In several countries, consumer subsidies, overvalued currencies or subsidized imports kept prices of wheat and/or rice relatively low, reducing the competitiveness of domestically produced coarse grains. However, structural adjustment programmes and the implementation of the Uruguay Round Agreement are reducing these market distortions in a number of countries.

Animal feed

About 48 percent of world sorghum grain production is fed to livestock (human food use constitutes about 42 percent). In contrast to food utilization, which is relatively stable, utilization for feed sorghum changes significantly in response to two factors: rising incomes, which stimulate the consumption of livestock products, and the price competitiveness of sorghum vis-a-vis other cereals, especially maize. While sorghum is generally regarded as an inferior cereal when consumed as food, the income elasticities for livestock products (and hence the derived demand for feed) are generally positive and high.

Demand for animal feed is concentrated in the developed countries and in middle-income countries in Latin America and Asia, where demand for meat is high and the livestock industry is correspondingly intensive. Over 85 percent of sorghum feed use occurs in Group II (Fig. 6). Three countries (United States, Mexico and Japan) together absorb nearly 70 percent of the world total (Table 5).

Table 3. Sorghum utilization by type and region.

Direct food (million tons)

Feed
(million tons)

Other uses1
(million tons)

Total utilization
(million tons)

Per caput food use
(kg/yr)

1979-81 average

Developing countries

25.0

14.7

4.4

44.2

7.7


Africa

9.0

0.8

2.3

12.1

18.8


Asia

15.7

7.4

2.0

25.1

6.1


Central America and the Caribbean

0.4

7.0

0.2

7.6

3.6


South America

0.1

3.7

0.3

4.1

0.3

Developed countries

0.3

20.4

0.6

21.2

0.2


North America

0.1

10.5

0.2

10.8

0.5


Europe

0.0

2.8

0.0

2.8

0.0


USSR (former)

0.0

2.5

0.0

2.5

0.0


Oceania

0.0

0.4

0.0

0.4

0.0

World

25.3

35.1

5.0

65.4

5.7

1989-91 average

Developing countries

25.1

14.5

3.7

43.3

6.2


Africa

11.5

0.9

1.8

14.2

18.2


Asia

13.3

6.1

1.6

21.0

4.6


Central America and the Caribbean

0.4

8.4

0.3

9.1

2.7


South America

0.0

2.7

0.2

2.9

0.1

Developed countries

0.4

16.8

0.5

17.7

0.3


North America

0.2

10.9

0.2

11.3

0.8


Europe

0.0

1.2

1.2

1.4

0.0


USSR (former)

0.0

0.3

0.0

0.3

0.0


Oceania

0.0

0.8

0.0

0.8

0.0

World

25.5

31.3

4.2

61.1

4.8

1992-94 average

Developing countries

26.4

14.8

5.5

46.7

6.2


Africa

12.8

1.3

3.2

17.3

18.6


Asia

13.3

5.6

2.0

20.9

4.1


Central America and the Caribbean

0.4

7.5

0.3

8.3

2.9


South America

0.0

3.1

0.3

3.4

0.1

Developed countries

0.3

15.8

0.7

16.8

0.2


North America

0.1

11.1

0.3

11.5

0.5


Europe

0.0

1.1

0.2

1.3

0.0


CIS

0.0

0.1

0.0

0.1

0.0


Oceania

0.0

0.8

0.0

0.8

0.0

World

26.7

30.6

6.2

63.5

4.8

1. For seed, manufacturing purposes and waste.

Table 4. Estimated growth rates of sorghum utilization by type and region, 1979-94.

Direct food (%/yr)

Feed (%/yr)

Other uses1 (%/yr)

Total utilization (%/yr)

Per caput food use (%/yr)

Developing countries

0.3

-0.3

0.7

0.1

-1.6


Africa

2.8

3.7

1.6

2.7

-0.1


Asia

-1.6

-1.5

-1.0

-1.5

-3.4


Central America and the Caribbean

0.6

0.5

3.0

0.6

-1.6


South America

-4.1

-2.3

0.1

-2.1

-6.0

Developed countries

3.8

-2.2

1.6

-2.0

2.7


North America

0.9

-0.2

1.6

-0.2

-0.1


Europe

-51.7

-4.4

15.4

-3.0

0.0


CIS2

0.0

-23.6

2.2

-22.5

0.0


Oceania

-5.5

4.7

51.0

-5.0

-7.4

World

0.3

-1.3

0.8

-0.5

-1.5

1. For seed, manufacturing purposes and waste.
2. Until 1991, area of the former USSR.
Source: FAO

Figure 6. Global sorghum food and feed utilization, 1979-94.


Africa


Asia


Latin America


Developed countries

World feed use rose from 16 million tons at the beginning of the 1960s to about 35 million tons by the mid 1980s, an average growth of 4 percent per annum. This demand was the main driving force in raising global production and international trade during that period. One major factor was increased use of sorghum feed in the United States during the 1960s and early 1970s, largely because the cattle-feeding industry shifted from the northern maize belt to the southern plains, where most United States sorghum is grown. Another factor was sharply rising demand for livestock products in Latin America, particularly in Mexico. In addition, government policies in some Latin American countries (e.g., Venezuela) restricted maize imports.

Trends since then were shaped by two events -response by the former USSR to the United States' grain embargo on sales in the early 1980s, and policy changes in the United States that favoured maize over sorghum. These factors led to an increase in maize production; maize became cheaper than sorghum, and sorghum trade and utilization for animal feed declined. Feed utilization has gradually increased in Africa and remained relatively unchanged in the lower-income countries in Asia. Roughly 5-10 percent of the sorghum produced in India - and a considerably higher proportion in China - is used for livestock and poultry feed. However, both these regions are relatively minor users of feed; changes in utilization trends are driven largely by the Group II countries, particularly the United States.

Sorghum vs maize. Competition between sorghum and maize is a key factor in feed utilization. The feed characteristics of sorghum are very similar to those of other cereals with which it competes. It provides about as much metabolizable energy as maize, has a higher crude protein content (though of lower quality), and is relatively rich in niacin, an essential vitamin. However, large investments in maize research have helped increase yields and reduce growing cycles for this competing energy source. This has improved the competitiveness of maize prices in many countries.

Feed industries in most countries apply least-cost formulations to produce compound feeds, in which sorghum/maize is mixed with non-grain ingredients. The quantity of sorghum used in feed depends primarily on the relative prices of sorghum and maize, and on relative feed value.

Another important factor is consumer preference for meat colour. Maize contains higher carotene levels than sorghum, so meat from maize-fed animals tends to be more yellow than meat from sorghum-fed animals. In Japan for example, consumers generally prefer white-coloured meat. Therefore, sorghum is a valued ingredient in some compound feed rations (for poultry, pigs and some breeds of beef cattle). In contrast, sorghum is discounted by producers in India because consumers there generally prefer poultry meat and egg yolks with a deeper yellow colour.

In addition, farmers in Asia have shown a growing interest in the sale and purchase of sorghum fodder. While the use of sorghum crop residues in Africa remains largely restricted to the farm, there is a large and growing market in Asia for traded sorghum residues to meet both rural feed shortfalls and urban agricultural demand, the latter largely for maintenance of dairy animals.

Table 5. Feed sorghum utilization in selected countries.

1979-81 average (million tons)

1984-86 average (million tons)

1989-91 average
(million tons)

1992-94 average (million tons)

United States

10.5

14.7

10.9

11.1

Mexico

6.7

6.6

8.1

7.1

Japan

4.1

4.2

3.5

2.6

China

2.4

2.1

1.5

1.9

Argentina

2.1

2.5

0.9

1.5

EC

1.8

0.5

0.8

0.9

Australia

0.4

0.3

0.8

0.8

Colombia

0.5

0.5

0.7

0.7

Venezuela

0.7

1.3

0.6

0.4

CIS1

2.5

0.9

0.3

0.1

Others

3.4

3.1

3.2

3.2

World

35.1

36.7

31.3

30.6

1. Until 1991, area of the former USSR.
Source: FAO

Other uses

Another important outlet for grain sorghum, especially in Africa, is in the preparation of alcoholic beverages. The grain is used for malt or as an adjunct in the production of two types of beer: clear beer and opaque beer, a traditional, low-alcohol African beer that contains fine suspended particles. Although statistics on the quantities of sorghum used in beer preparation are lacking for many countries, the available data indicate that most of this grain is allocated to opaque beer production. Sorghum is traditionally a major ingredient in home-brewed beer, the growing demand for which has created a commercial industry in some countries. This industry produces both opaque beer and dried beer powder for retail sale. Much smaller quantities are used to produce clear beer, primarily in Nigeria and Rwanda. A temporary ban on barley imports in Nigeria during the late 1980s and early 1990s encouraged the development of a market for sorghum-based malt drinks. Small quantities of grain are also used for the production of sweeteners in Nigeria.

Outside Africa, small quantities are used in the beer industries in Mexico and the United States. In China, about one-third of sorghum grain production is reported to be used to make alcoholic beverages, mainly a strong traditional liquor.