Table of Contents


1. Overview

  • Sorghum is mainly cultivated on low potential, shallow soils with a high percentage clay content, not suitable for maize cultivation.
  • Sorghum, like other grains, has two basic markets that it serves namely, the human component and the animal feed component. It is used to make such foods as couscous, sorghum flour, soups and molasses.
  • In South Africa, sorghum meal (Mabele) is often eaten as a stiff porridge much like pap.
  • It is used to make sorghum beer.
  • Sorghum was identified as a preferred source of biofuels in South Africa. (Not much has happened – see heading 3).
  • Sorghum seeds can be popped in the same manner as popcorn (i.e with oil or hot air), although the popped kernels are smaller than popcorn.
  • In Ethiopia, sorghum is fermented to make injera flatbread.
  • The animal feed industry is an important market for sorghum, because it is a component in the production of poultry, pet, pigeon and ostrich feeds. It is competitive with other grain crops both in price and nutritive value.
  • Some varieties can also be used to make baskets, fences, thatch and brushes.
  • There are two types of sorghum varieties, namely bitter and sweet sorghum cultivars. Preference is given to the sweet cultivars. Bitter sorghum is planted in areas where birds are a problem since it contains tannin which gives a bitter taste; consequently birds tend to avoid eating it.
Source: The Sorghum Trust; International TradeProbe, Issue No 50 and previous notes from the South African Grain Information Service (SAGIS). More detailed information on the uses of sorghum can be found at, website of the Sorghum Trust.


2. International business environment

  • The largest producers of sorghum are the USA, Nigeria, India, Ethiopia and Sudan (USDA, 2018). The USA and Australia are the top exporters, while China and Mexico are the top importers (USDA, 2018).
  • Sorghum is included in the monthly “Grain: World Markets and Trade” circular available from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Find it on the Foreign Agricultural Service Home Page,
  • Find the website of the National Sorghum Producers (USA) at

South Africa: exports and imports

Find the latest monthly bulletin and sorghum presentation on the South African Grain Information Services (SAGIS) website, The regulations relating the grading of sorghum and the requirements for grain exports can be read at website of Agbiz Grain.

  • South Africa is a net importer. As a result, prices continue to trade closer to import party levels.
  • We import mainly from the USA.
  • South Africa is a small player when it comes to exporting sorghum, particularly since 2010. The average annual amount is estimated at 26 000 tons, most of which goes to Botswana and Swaziland. Sihlobo and Kapuya (2015) have pointed to the potential of sorghum exports to countries in the Far East like Japan, Europe and African markets like Sudan and Ethiopia. 
  • Although the marketing of sorghum is free from intervention, phytosanitary requirements and quality standards should be adhered to. A Perishable Products Export Control Board (PPECB) certificate is needed for exports.
  • The import tariff for Sorghum is 3% of the fob price.
Source: USDA Grain: World Markets and Trade September 2018; the Trade Intelligence Report “Identifying potential opportunities for South Africa’s sorghum exports” by Wandile Sihlobo and Tinashe Kapuya (2015); previous notes from the South African Grain Information Service (SAGIS)