USGC efforts paying off in Southeast Asian sorghum market

by World Grain Staff
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WASHINGTON, D.C., U.S. — The U.S. Grains Council (USGC) recently hosted animal nutritionists, feed manufacturers and other end-users from the Philippines, Indonesia and Vietnam for a week of educational seminars and farm and mill visits in the U.S. and Mexico.

Alvaro Cordero, USGC manager of international operations, said that the industries in those countries have not used sorghum in rations in the past, but recent events have made them open to alternatives. In the Philippines, a high tariff on U.S. corn caused users to turn to Thai and Indian corn and Ukraine feed wheat, which are of lesser quality and uncertain availability.

U.S. sorghum, however, is subject to a lower tariff. Cordero said last spring, Ukraine wheat C & F Manila was $220 per tonne while landed U.S. sorghum was $245-$250, "still a little more money than feed wheat but a lot better quality. Therefore sorghum as a quality feed for the local millers and the end-users was actually a good option."

Since then, Ukraine feed wheat has risen to $300 and sorghum, at $285-$290, is now cheaper.

"Because there’s a distortion," he said, "the best way for them to go is to import high-quality sorghum out of the U.S."

The council sent nutritionists to those countries earlier this year to show them how to use sorghum; that created the foundation for the tour, during which the council hosted a seminar with Joe Hancock of Kansas State University’s International Grains Program on using sorghum in poultry and swine rations.

Cordero said if these countries purchase U.S. sorghum, it could open the door for sales of other American sourced feedstuffs; not only will it acquaint them with the process of buying U.S., but the U.S. has the advantage of being able to offer combination cargoes with several products.

"That’s where we believe it’s beneficial for the U.S. producer and our agriculture industry that we get this running," he said, adding the council will follow up this fall with more trips overseas by nutritionists to reinforce the message and answer any additional questions.

Also accompanying the group was Florentino Lopez, marketing director of the United Sorghum Checkoff Program, who noted those countries are not able to produce all of their own grain needs, and sorghum often "meets that niche of being able to get into those areas, not only from a cost standpoint but also from a benefits standpoint."

Lopez said the group’s visits with producers and elevator operators in South Texas paid benefits. Instead of just seeing sorghum as a commodity, he said, "It’s identifying that commodity with an individual or with a group of individuals, knowing who is actually growing it; oftentimes that’s a very key item in export markets, and so that brings it back closer to home."

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