Kansas grain sorghum producers need export markets.
That fact is driven home by the statistics that show that in 2014-2015 more than 75% of all the sorghum grown in Kansas was shipped overseas — and the biggest customer was China.
In late October, a delegation of Chinese importers visited Kansas to learn more about the Kansas sorghum industry as part of promotional tour sponsored by the U.S. Grains Council.
"We are very interested in sorghum quality," said Xu Ying of Guangzhou Renyi Import and Export Trading Co. Ltd., a member of the delegation. "What we have learned here is that Kansas sorghum is very good quality. There are no toxins, and the color is light, which our customers prefer."
The Chinese importer explained that imports of U.S. sorghum have to compete with domestic corn prices, but said that China is willing to pay a premium for high-quality sorghum.
The Chinese delegation also visited ethanol plants, attended Export Exchange 2016, met with Scoular grain and CHS, and visited fields in Arkansas before traveling to Kansas. The trip was arranged through the U.S. Grains Council.
In Kansas, the delegation visited sorghum and corn farms, an ethanol plant, and river and export terminals.
In Wichita, the group heard from a number of U.S. and Kansas grain handlers.
The U.S. Grains Council and the United Sorghum Checkoff Program began promotion of U.S. sorghum in China in 2013. Since then, China's sorghum imports have soared.
In addition to grain sorghum, China has imported large amounts of U.S. dried distillers grains (DDGs), a byproduct of ethanol production that is also a high-quality animal feed.
With changes in Chinese corn policy and prices, import demand for U.S. sorghum has softened slightly from historic levels, but China remains the largest customer for U.S. sorghum and is expected to be an important customer in the coming years. The U.S. saw strong sorghum export sales to China take place while the team was in the U.S.
Xu said the Kansas trip was her fifth visit to the U.S. and the first in which she had a chance to visit Kansas and see large fields of sorghum production.
"I have been very impressed with Kansas farms," she said.