Chapter 2 - Production and utilization

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The production and consumption data on sorghum and millets can be considered as only the best estimates that are available, as production data from small subsistence farms are difficult to obtain in any country. It is also likely that grain distribution and consumption throughout the semi-arid tropical regions vary widely among seasons, communities and families. Detailed and reliable data on the variety of products made from sorghum and millets and the prevalence of their use are either scanty or currently unavailable. One reason for the lack of information is the fact that to collect this information extensive surveys are needed. Several factors such as cost, time, labour, transportation and accessibility of villages in rural areas have to be considered before a survey is carried out. In several developing countries, inadequate infrastructure and other constraints have contributed to the lack of information on consumption of sorghum and millets.

Sorghum production

The total production of sorghum in the world in 1990 was 58 million tonnes, a decrease from 60 million tonnes in the year 1989 and 62 million tonnes in 1988 (FAO, 1991). A decrease in yield from 1 340 kg/ha in 1989 to 1 312 kg/ha in 1990 was reported, while the area remained around 44 million hectares in both years. Table 3 provides data on area, yield and production of sorghum in various regions of the world.

The five largest producers of sorghum in the world (Table 4) are the United States (25 percent), India (21 .5 percent), Mexico (almost 11 percent), China (9 percent) and Nigeria (almost 7 percent). Together these five countries account for 73 percent of total world production.

Of the total world area devoted to sorghum, over 80 percent is in developing countries. In Africa, sorghum is grown in a large belt that spreads from the Atlantic coast to Ethiopia and Somalia, bordering the Sahara in the north and the equatorial forest in the south. This area extends through the drier parts of eastern and southern Africa, where rainfall is too low for the successful cultivation of maize. Sorghum is the second most important cereal (after maize) in sub-Saharan Africa.

TABLE 3: Area, yield and production of sorghum by region, 1990

Region

Area

Yield (kg/ha)

Production

  (10 ha) (% total)   (10 ha) (% total)
North and Central America 5 970 13.5 3 572 21 325 36.7
Asia 18451 41.6 1 023 18 867 32.4
Africa 17 799 40.1 718 12 784 22.0
South America 1353 3.1 2 614 3 537 6.1
Oceania 407 0.9 2 298 934 1.6
World (1990) 44 352   1 312 58190  
World (1989) 44 695   1 340 59 991  

Source: FAO, 1991.

TABLE 4: Leading sorghum producers, 1990

Country

Area

Production

  (10 ha) (% total) (10 ha) (% total)
United States 3 674 8.3 14 516 25.0
India 15300 34.5 12500 21.5
Mexico 1 830 4.1 6 230 10.7
China 1900 4.3 5310 91
Nigeria 6 000 13.5 4 000 6.9
Argentina 688 1.6 2 016 3.5
Sudan 2 925 6.6 1 502 2.6
Ethiopia 870 2.0 1000 1.7
Australia 406 0.9 933 1.6
Burkina Faso 1 250 2.8 917 1.6
Total 34 843 78.6 48 924 84.1
World 44 352 1 00 58190 1 00

Source: FAO, 1991.

Because of higher yield per unit area, North and Central America produce the highest quantity of sorghum (37 percent of total production). In Central and South America sorghum is grown in the drier parts of Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, dry lowland interior areas of Argentina, dry areas of northern Colombia, Venezuela, Brazil and Uruguay. In North America, sorghum is cultivated in parts of the central and southern plains of the United States where rainfall is low and variable. Kansas, Texas, Nebraska and Arkansas are the major producing states, accounting for about 80 percent of total production in the United States.

In Asia, sorghum is extensively cultivated in India, China, Yemen, Pakistan and Thailand. Production in Europe is limited to a few areas in France, Italy, Spain and the southeastern countries. In Oceania, Australia is the only producer of significance; the production is concentrated in Queensland and northern New South Wales, where about 95 percent of the total crop is produced.

World sorghum production expanded from 40 million tonnes at the beginning of the 1960s to 66 million tonnes in 1979-81. However, by 1990 it had fallen to 58 million tonnes, though the area under sorghum declined only slightly, from 45.6 million to 44.4 million hectares, during the same period. The reduction in production from 1979-81 to 1990 was largely due to a decline in two major sorghum-producing countries, the United States and China. These two countries accounted for 6.2 million tonnes or 85 percent of the reduction in the global production figures. There are several reasons for the declining trend in the production of sorghum, including unpredictable and erratic distribution of rainfall (most of the sorghum grown is rain-fed), declining soil fertility, the inefficient production systems employed in individual countries, biotic and abiotic stresses and declining demand for sorghum. The growth in food demand (2.9 percent) for the period 1980 to 2000 in 90 developing countries will marginally exceed projected agricultural production growth (2.8 percent) (FAO, 1981). However, the imbalance will be more pronounced in Africa (demand 3.4 percent, production growth 2.6 percent). In the least-developed countries, production growth is predicted to lag 25 percent below the growth of demand.

TABLE 5: Sources of energy and protein in the food supply of the world's ten leading sorghum producers, 1987-89

Country

Energy per caput per day (kcal)

Protein per caput per day (g)

  Total From vegetable products Percentage of total From animal products Total From vegetable products Percentage of total From animal products
United States 3676 2430 66.1 1 246 109.6 36.4 33.2 73.2
India 2196 2 048 93.3 2 048 53.2 45.6 85.7 7.6
Mexico 3048 2 497 81.9 551 77.9 46.9 60.2 31.0
China 2634 2 365 89.8 269 62.8 50.7 80.7 12.1
Nigeria 2306 2 248 97.5 58 49.5 43.6 88.1 5.9
Argentina 3110 2 145 69.0 965 100.3 36.5 36.4 63.8
Sudan 2028 1 677 82.7 351 57.8 37.6 65.1 20.2
Australia 3186 2 036 63.9 1 150 97.4 31.7 32.5 65.7
Burkina Faso 2286 2 186 95.6 100 69.8 62.6 89.7 7.2

Source: FAO, 1991.

In 1987-89, vegetable products supplied the bulk of dietary energy (90 percent or more) and more than 80 percent of total daily protein in four of the ten major producers of sorghum in the world, namely, India, China, Nigeria and Burkina Faso (Table 5). In Mexico and the Sudan, vegetable products supplied more than 80 percent of dietary energy.


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