In March, the Texas Grain Sorghum Producers board, in conjunction with the U.S. Grains Council, is taking 15 farmers and merchants to China to attend the 13th JCI Spring Conference on Chinese Feed Raw Materials Market & IFFO/JCI Fishmeal and Fish Oil Forum, thanks to a Step Grant through the Texas Department of Agriculture.
“I think the market will be better this year because China is back in the market,” says Wayne Cleveland, executive director for TGSP. “What we want is for growers to come back and convey to farmers here that the markets are there. When you go to these meetings, it’s a feeding frenzy— that’s how bad they want grain sorghum in China. It’s unbelievable.”
China uses grain sorghum to produce their state liquor called baijiu. “So at the first of the year, the government determines how many celebrations there will be and how much baijiu is needed for those celebrations,” says Cleveland. “And as the economy grows, the grain of choice is grain sorghum. They buy over half of the grain sorghum grown in the states. They would probably buy it all this coming year. It’s crazy.”
Baijiu means "white (clear) alcohol" or liquor, and is a strong distilled spirit, generally 52 percent alcohol by volume (US: 104° proof). As one of the top distilled liquors in the world, baijiu is distilled from fermented sorghum and is the only liquor to use solid grain material in the fermentation process, according to CNS Imports website.
“What we’re trying to do is get our growers and our merchants to come back and say, ‘this is real.’ We want the merchants to buy the grain and we want the growers to grow it. It goes back to profitability,” says Cleveland, who adds there will be 600 to 700 feed ingredient buyers at the conference. “We also try to put people together, non-traditional trade routes, like containers or a port, that traditionally don’t export to China. That’s a big part of the grant.”
The TGSP group will fly into Guangzhou, China, where they will attend and speak at the conference. Next, the group will fly to Shanghai where they will attend more conferences, make calls, and possibly visit a baijiu processing plant, says Cleveland.
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But liquor isn’t China’s only use for grain sorghum. The country also uses U.S. grain sorghum to raise their ducks. “Sorghum Checkoff did a study. We were over there three years ago and a guy said, ‘I think grain sorghum is making my duck productivity better by 25 percent.’ So, in China, their favorite cuts of the duck are the neck and the gizzard. Sorghum makes the gizzards 25 percent bigger,” explains Cleveland. “Imagine making the loin on a steer bigger just by changing the feed. That was a producer-funded study, which goes back to checkoff. So now they compete with the baijiu makers to buy grain sorghum. You really can’t make these things up.”