More than 40 percent of the United State’s annual grain sorghum crop is exported, making access to international markets vital to the U.S. sorghum farmer. According to the U.S. Grains Council, grain sorghum is the third most important cereal crop grown in the United States and the fifth most important cereal crop grown in the world. The United States is the world’s largest producer of grain sorghum, followed by India and Nigeria. Sorghum has unique properties that make it well suited for food uses. Some sorghum varieties are rich in antioxidants and all sorghum varieties are gluten-free, an attractive alternative for wheat allergy sufferers.
In the past several years, U.S. sorghum exports to Spain have experienced a lot of volatility, resulting in no exports in 2009 compared to prior years. With the creative efforts of two USDA Foreign Agricultural Services (FAS) field offices and the U.S. Grains Council, U.S. sorghum exports to Spain in 2010 were valued at $38 million. This collaboration has set the tone to work together to build a reliable and stable market in Spain, for what is a consistently high quality U.S. export product. The major sorghum producing states such as Kansas, Texas, Nebraska and Arkansas all benefit from the renewal of U.S. sorghum exports to Spain.
As grain prices rose during August 2010 and feed grain supplies diminished, the FAS office in Madrid identified favorable market conditions for U.S. sorghum in Spain. FAS Madrid and FAS Brussels leveraged the assistance of a network of stakeholders to highlight market opportunities for U.S. sorghum exports as well as to identify and resolve market barriers. During this period the U.S. Grains Council brought a team of Spain’s leading feed and livestock industry representatives to the United States to educate participants about the uses of sorghum as a cost-effective grain in a variety of feed rations. Several months of coordination between representatives in the United States and Spain ultimately contributed to a revival of U.S. sorghum exports to Spain in 2010, with more on the way in 2011.
In January and February 2011, sorghum exports reached nearly $15.8 million. In March, representatives from U.S. Grains Council traveled to Spain to follow up with several Spanish grain importers and end-users who had taken part in the Council’s trip in January to meet U.S. sorghum producers and suppliers in Kansas and Texas. The follow-up meetings included a visit to northwest Spain, where importers have the least experience using sorghum. There, the Council’s sorghum feeding seminar attracted 26 feed ingredient companies and buyers. Since then, two 35,000 metric ton (1.4 million bushels) purchases have been made by a Spanish member of the team.
The coordinated and timely work of all partners and stakeholders was critical to achieving this successful outcome as USDA continues to expand agricultural exports as part of President Obama’s National Export Initiative of doubling all U.S. exports by 2014.