SOUTH AFRICA – Sorghum production in South Africa is on the decline and according to Global Agricultural Information Network report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, this will drop by 9% in 2018-19 to 100,000 tonnes from 109,855 tonnes in 2017-18.

The drop was attributed to a 32%decrease in area planted as many producers substituted sorghum for more profitable crops like soybeans.

Average area planted declined to 60,000 hectares and reached an all-time low of 29,000 hectares in the 2017/18 MY.

Substitutions are based on productivity as yield levels have failed to increase at the same positive rate as productivity levels of corn and soybeans, resulting in less competitive gross margins.

“Sorghum yields have remained fairly stagnant over the past decade at an average yield of about 2.7 tons per hectares, while average corn yields increased by around 20% to reach almost 6.0 tons per hectare.

Unless drastic technology changes occur that could improve sorghum productivity, producers will continue to switch to more profitable crops and the decreasing trend in hectares planted with sorghum in South Africa will continue,” the report said.

Total sorghum consumption decreased by about 20% the past 10 years, mainly due to the decrease in the usage of sorghum for malt.

For the 2017/18 MY and 2018/19 MY, sorghum consumption is estimated to remain at 165,000 tons, same level as in the 2016/17 MY.

Sorghum is mainly used for sorghum meal and production of malt, used in manufacturing of beer.

Only about 5% or 10,000 tons of sorghum consumption in South Africa end up as animal feed.

The report indicated that South Africa moved from being a net exporter of sorghum to a net importer of sorghum in the past 10 years as producers preferred to plant more profitable crops like corn and oilseeds.

Sorghum imports are expected to increase by 17% during the period to reach 70,000 tonnes, primarily from its major suppliers including the United States.

South Africa exports sorghum to its neighboring countries like Botswana and Swaziland but at a decreasing level the past 10 years.

In the 2016/17 MY exports amounted to 9,466 tons and the report said that the exports are expected to remain the same for the current year.