Sorghum's growth in production and demand in the past two years will likely slow going forward but will continue as more is used in food production and sales to China recover, said Tim Lust, chief executive of the U.S. sorghum checkoff program.
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U.S sorghum production increased 46% in two years and exports more than doubled in that time, as China ramped up purchases to feed its ducks and swine and to make alcoholic drinks. Current economic troubles in China have slowed purchases, but Lust expects a resumption in business when the problems are resolved.
"While we may not see the record prices and record paces we saw last year, we do see a long-term pattern of growth," Lust told Farm Futures on the sidelines of the Oilseed and Grain Trade Summit.
While China is the primary export market, Lust said more sorghum is being used in the United States in breads, cereals and crackers.
"We have very a strong biofuels industry that continues to use sorghum," he said. "While it is a niche market the fastest growing segment for sorghum is the food sector. We continue to see more food products in grocery stores and restaurants utilizing sorghum."
The sorghum checkoff is paid by farmers at a rate 0.6% on sales or 60 cents on every $100 in sales, and in 2014 raised more than $9 million. Part of that money is being targeted the development of new food products, such as health and energy drinks.
The increase in production plus the decline in prices for a number of crops pressured sorghum prices. USDA put the average 2014 price at $4 a bushel versus 2013's $4.28. For the 2015 crop it currently has prices from $3.65 to $4.35.