Sorghum utilization

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Total consumption of sorghum closely follows the global pattern of output, since most of it is consumed in the countries where it is grown. Sorghum is used for two distinct purposes: human food and animal feed. Although in the early 1960s a very large part of the sorghum output was used directly as human food, its share has continuously declined since then. In fact, consumption of sorghum as animal feed has more than doubled, from 30 to 60 percent, since the early 1960s, while the volume of total food use has remained unchanged or has slightly declined (Table 6). In North and Central America, South America and Oceania most of the sorghum produced is used for animal feed.

TABLE 6: Sorghum utilization, 1981-85 average and growth from 1961-65 to 1981 - 85


1981-85 average (million tonnes)

Annual growth from 1961-65 to 1981 (%)

  Food Feed Other uses Total Food Feed Other uses Total
Africa 8.0 0.4 2.3 10.7 1.5 3.5 -0.6 1.0
Asia 15.1 6.3 2.1 23.5 - 7.8 0.2 1.2
Central America 0.3 8.4 0.2 8.9 2.0 13.2 - 12.1
South America - 4.6 0.3 4.9 - 8.5 5.7 8.3
North America - 12.6 0.1 12.7 - 0.5 - 0.5
Europe - 1.4 - 1.4 - -2.5 - -2.5
USSR - 2.3 0.3 2.6 - 17.0 - 17.0
Oceania - 0.4 - 0.4 - 3.5   3.5
World 23.4 36.4 5 3 65.1 0.5 3.8 0.4 2.1
Developing countries 23.2 15.6 4.8 43.6 0.5 10.3 0.1 1.7
Developed countries 0.2 20.8 0.5 21.5 3.5 1.7 4.7 2.2

Source: FAO, 1988.

Human food

While total food consumption of all cereals has risen considerably during the past 35 years, world food consumption of sorghum has remained stagnant, mainly because, although nutritionally sorghum compares well with other grains, it is regarded in many countries as an inferior grain. Per caput consumption of sorghum is high in countries or areas where climate does not allow the economic production of other cereals and where per caput incomes are relatively low. These include especially the countries bordering the southern fringes of the Sahara, including Ethiopia and Somalia, where the national average per caput consumption of sorghum can reach up to 100 kg per year. Other countries with significant per caput consumption include Botswana, Lesotho, Yemen and certain provinces in China and states in India. In most other countries food consumption of sorghum is relatively small or negligible compared to that of other cereals.

More than 95 percent of total food use of sorghum occurs in countries of Africa and Asia (Table 6). In Africa, human consumption accounts for almost three-quarters of total utilization and sorghum represents a large portion of the total calorie intake in many countries. For example, in Burkina Faso about 45 percent of the total annual calorie intake from cereals comes from sorghum, although its share has declined from 55 percent in the early 1960s. China and India account for about 90 percent of total food use in Asia.

Available data from Africa indicate that despite an increase in total food use between the early 1960s and the mid-1980s, the average per caput consumption declined from 20 to 15 kg per year (FAO, 1988). Decreases were concentrated in Kenya, Mozambique, Nigeria and Somalia but occurred also in Botswana, Ethiopia, Lesotho and Zimbabwe. In Asia, both total and per caput food use of sorghum declined.

This decline in per caput consumption in many countries was due in part to shifts in consumer habits brought about by a number of factors: the rapid rate of urbanization, the time and energy required to prepare food based on sorghum, inadequate domestic structure, poor marketing facilities and processing techniques, unstable supplies and relative unavailability of sorghum products, including flour, compared with other foodstuffs. Changes in consumption habits were concentrated in urban areas. Per caput food consumption of sorghum in rural producing areas remained considerably higher than in the towns. In addition, national policies in a number of countries had a negative influence on sorghum utilization as food. For instance, large imports of cheap wheat and rice and policies to subsidize production of those crops in some countries had considerable negative impact on the production of sorghum.

Animal feed

Grain use for animal feed has been a dynamic element in the stimulation of global sorghum consumption. The demand for sorghum for feed purposes has been the main driving force in raising global production and international trade since the early 1960s. The demand is heavily concentrated in the developed countries, where animal feed accounts for about 97 percent of total use, and in some higher-income developing countries, especially in Latin America where 80 percent of all sorghum is utilized as animal feed. The United States, Mexico and Japan are the main consuming countries, followed by Argentina, the former Soviet Union and Venezuela. These countries together account for over 80 percent of world use of sorghum as animal feed.

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