WASHINGTON, D.C., U.S. — In the recent past, China has imported more than 70% of U.S. exportable sorghum supply, but trade policy challenges, increased local production and competing feed sources have prompted efforts to diversify the sorghum customer base. According to the U.S. Grains Council (USGC), the United States produces roughly 15 million tonnes (590 million bushels) of grain sorghum each year, 55% of which is destined for export. Southeast Asia has the potential to be one of those new demand sources for the United States.
In 2017, the USGC and United Sorghum Checkoff Program (USCP) went on the road to highlight the potential of U.S. sorghum to supply the growing aquaculture industry of Southeast Asia.
This effort began with the USGC operating in-country feeding trials to test the viability of replacing cassava with sorghum in Pangasius, a large catfish species native to Southeast Asia diets. Annual catfish production in Vietnam alone is 2.4 million tons.
“If successful, Vietnam could be a potential sorghum market for up to 480,000 tonnes (18 million bushels) of U.S. sorghum with an export value of $101.7 million per year,” the USGC said.
The trials concluded that U.S. sorghum is a viable replacement for cassava as a source of starch for feeding Pangasius. The feeding trial results showed no difference between cassava and U.S. sorghum on catfish growth performance, fillet color or physical properties of feed pellet quality. Beyond starch, sorghum is also low in tannins and contains an advantageous protein profile.
The USGC and USCP showcased these results during one of the world’s leading seafood trade shows, VietFish 2017. Every year, nearly 200 local and international exhibitors participate in the show, with approximately 30,000 visitors from Vietnam and around the world. The USGC and USCP conducted a series of seminars during the trade show as well as distributing the trial results at technical workshops and discussions in subsequent visits in Thailand.
The sorghum export market represents a billion dollars in export revenue for the U.S. industry. The groundwork that the Council has built in Southeast Asia’s aquaculture sector is an important step in diversifying sorghum’s export markets and creating an opportunity for U.S. sorghum in the aquaculture sector.