Sorghum Farming; A Vibrant Market in Nigeria

Sorghum crop is a member of the grass family, often called sorghum bicolor. It is an important food crop that is also used for fibre, fodder and production of alcoholic beverages. The plant thrives in tropical and sub-tropical regions of Africa and Asia. Sorghum is known by several names such as guinea corn, Egyptian millet, Sudan grass, great millet and other native names depending on the locality. It is one of the most important staple foods in poor rural communities in semi-arid tropics of Africa and Asia.

Scientists have developed improved sorghum varieties such that we now have about 194 improved cultivars in the world thus enabling farmers to diversify into high-income cash crops. The species can be classified into four groups: grain sorghums, grass sorghums, sweet sorghums (guinea corn) and broom corn.

Sorghum grain has various shapes, sizes and colours. Some have tight-headed, round, open and droopy panicle. The colours include red, orange or bronze, white, tan, and black. While the red, orange and bronze strains are traditionally grown and used in all segments of industry, the tan, cream and white types are processed into flour for the food industry. The black strain has anti-oxidant properties and is used in other food varieties.

Nutritional Profile

Production

According to the Food And Agriculture Organisation, the United States was the largest producer of sorghum in 2009, with 9.7 metric tons. Others in decreasing order were India, Nigeria, Sudan and Ethiopia.  It is also produced in large quantities in Australia, Brazil, China, Burkina Faso, Argentina, Mali, Cameroon,, Egypt, Niger, Tanzania, Chad, Uganda, Mozambique, Venezuela and Ghana.

Nigeria was the largest world producer of sorghum grain in 2010 followed by the United States and India. In Nigeria, the states that are major producers are Adamawa, Borno, Bauchi, Jigawa, Yobe and Gombe. Others are Taraba, Plateau, Kebbi, Katsina, Nasarawa, Zamfara, Sokoto and Niger.

It is the third most important cereal in the United States and the fifth most important in the world. In developing countries of the world, sorghum is mostly used as fodder for poultry and cattle.

In 2010 the United States, Australia and Argentina were the leading exporters in the world while Mexico was the largest importer of the grain.

Sorghum adapts very well in hot, arid and semi-arid regions of the world. It is drought and heat-tolerant, and is especially important in arid regions. Fertiliser (NPK) could be applied to enhance good yield. Irrigation facilities may be provided. Weeding is also necessary for healthy growth. One advantage of sorghum is that it grows in harsh conditions where other crops cannot survive. It does not require fertilizers or other inputs to grow.

However, with climate change, which is increasingly limiting the production of maize as a staple crop, sorghum would be the perfect alternative.

Uses

It is an important food crop in Africa, Central America, and South Asia. The U.S. Grains Council describes it as the “fifth most important cereal crop grown in the world.” Sorghum is used as poultry feed, cattle feed and for brewing purposes.  Sorghum bicolor, which is native to Africa with many cultivars, is an important crop worldwide used for food, both as grain and syrup, as well as animal fodder, the production of alcoholic beverages and bio-fuels.

Other Uses

Forage sorghum typically grows eight to 15 feet tall and is most popular for use as silage for feeding livestock. Forage sorghum is grown for grazing pasture, hay production, silage and green chop. Sweet sorghum is specially grown for syrup and it is produced for the stalks rather than for grain.  It is crushed as sugar cane to produce syrup.

Alcoholic Beverages

Sorghum grain is processed through fermentation to produce sorghum beer known by different names in many countries. For instance, in Nigeria, sorghum beer is called ‘burukutu’ while in Cameroon it is known as ‘bil-bil’. East Africans call it ‘pombe’ while in South Africa it is ‘umqombothi.’

Feeds

Sorghum grains are used for the production of feeds for poultry, cattle and swine while the stems and foliage are used for green chop, hay, silage and pasture.

Bio-fuels

Sorghum has been discovered to be among the most efficient crops in conversion of solar energy.

Diseases And Pests

Different types of diseases and pests attack the sorghum crop such as bollyworm, shoot fly, fungi, bacteria and virus and adversely affect yields. Weeds also affect yields and should be taken care of early.

Markets

There is a vibrant market in Nigeria more than even in the international market. This is because the local market provides ready market and offers better prices. There is great demand for sorghum in the consumer food and dairy industries, livestock feeds industry, ethanol industry and the breweries industry. There are also new and expanding markets for sorghum in building materials, floral aesthetics, brooms and pet food. This wide range use gives sorghum a vast market and high return on investment. By investing in commercial sorghum farming you will not only be contributing to food security in the country but also the much needed scarce foreign exchange. Perhaps, it is your turn to prosper in this business. Grab the opportunity.

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