U.S. Sorghum, An International Commodity

In the past marketing year, the U.S. exported a total of 7.19 million MT of sorghum (milo) with an estimated value of $1,991 million, according to USDA Foreign Agricultural Service. Sorghum exports in 2020/21 are among the highest export levels in history and only surpassed by the exports observed in 1989/90, 2014/15, and 2015/16. The U.S. is the world’s leading sorghum exporter, followed by Argentina. Last year, about 87% of total U.S. production was exported. For instance, 2020/21 U.S. sorghum exports represented 65% of world exports. Moreover, in the last 30 years, U.S. sorghum accounted for about 73% of all international exports. Recent increases in export demand improved the local sorghum/corn price ratio from 0.93 in 2017-19 to 1.03 in the last two marketing years.

Historically, Mexico, Japan, and Sub-Saharan African countries have been the principal importers of U.S. sorghum. Since 2013/14, China has become the primary buyer, compensating for the loss of traditional market destinations. Specifically, China imported 94% of total U.S. sorghum exports during 2020/21, and about 81% of the total U.S. sorghum exports since 2013/14. Exports to China have increased by 1,029% from 2018/19, and nearly doubled from 2019/20. The US-China Phase One Trade agreement (i.e., compared to corn and wheat, U.S. sorghum exports are not subject to tariff-rate quotas), the recovery of the Chinese swine sector severely affected by the African swine fever, and relatively higher corn prices have supported high exports of U.S. sorghum to China during the last two years. 

Source: USDA FAS

Abello, Pancho, and Samuel Zapata. “U.S. Sorghum, An International Commodity.” Southern Ag Today 1(51.1). December 13, 2021. Permalink